The harmonically clear and very French aesthetic of Satie is nowhere better seen than in his Trois Gymnopédies
for piano, which were among his earliest published compositions. They have proved his most popular works, not only because of his friend Debussy’s orchestrations of two of them, but also through their haunting simplicity and classical restraint. We can paraphrase Lambert, who likened the aural effect of these three rather similar pieces to walking around a piece of sculpture, viewing it from various angles. Satie preferred not really to explain the rather esoteric title: it has always been assumed that the word ‘gymnopédies’ vaguely refers to the dances performed for several days without interruption by naked youths in classical Sparta. Debussy decided to orchestrate two of the three Gymnopédies
after hearing Satie play them (not particularly well) on the piano at the house of the conductor Gustave Doret in 1896. They were first performed at a Société Nationale concert on 20 February 1897. Debussy orchestrated Satie’s first and third Gymnopédies
and reversed this order upon publication. There have been many orchestrations of the Gymnopédie
missed by Debussy (No 2); that recorded here is by Ronald Corp, who uses the same orchestra as Debussy and very much continues the mood of unity and calm established by him.
from notes by Simon Wright © 1989