SATIE Trois Gymnopédies
The leader of a group of irreverently anti-Romantic composers known as “Les Six,” Erik Satie exerted a powerful influence over a long line of composers, from Debussy and Stravinsky to John Cage and Steve Reich. The three closely related piano pieces known as Gymnopédies, after an ancient Greek ceremonial dance, are among his earliest and most enduringly popular works.
DEBUSSY Images, Book I
At once radical and traditionalist, Debussy rebelled against the ponderous academic style of establishment composers like Saint-Saëns and d’Indy, urging his compatriots to return to the “pure French tradition” that he admired in the music of Rameau. Debussy’s first book of Images, composed between 1901 and 1905, combines an homage to the Baroque master with a pair of exquisitely crafted tone poems.
As a member of the Parisian artists’ circle known as “Les Apaches,” the young Ravel aligned himself with the gadflies who stood apart from France’s hidebound cultural establishment. The Sonatine, with its graceful lyricism and crystalline textures, anticipates the novel harmonies that would characterize his soon-to-be-finished piano cycle Miroirs.
CHOPIN Scherzo No. 1 in B Minor, Op. 20; Scherzo No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 31; Scherzo No. 3 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 39; Scherzo No. 4 in E Major, Op. 54
In his four scherzos, as in his contemporaneous polonaises and ballades, Chopin deliberately set out to work on a grander scale than in his earlier waltzes, mazurkas, nocturnes, and other salon pieces. Composed over a period of some eight years, the scherzos illustrate both Chopin’s innovative approach to the keyboard, and the extraordinary range and subtlety of his musical language.