Ronald Corp retains Debussy’s chamber orchestra (two flutes, oboe, four horns, harp, and strings) for his scoring of the Trois Gnossiennes
, a similarly mysterious set of pieces written for piano by Satie in 1890. These miniatures, originally notated without bar lines or time signatures, again evoke a half-remembered and certainly long-vanished antiquity. Does the title refer to the stately Cretan figures endlessly circling the dark pottery of Knossos? We do not know, and it matters not. Satie’s semi-humorous but deadpan performing indications («Munissez-vous de clairvoyance», «Ouvrez la tête», and «Seul, pendant un instant», for example) are, doubtless, further red herrings, and side-swipes at the increasingly elaborate instructions with which Debussy was beginning to litter his own scores. The repetitive, motivic nature of his modally based melodies in Gnossiennes
, with their parallel chordal accompaniments, also shows Satie’s developing interest in religious chant and monody, an interest that became an obsession.
from notes by Simon Wright © 1989