For Erik Satie, his whole life was a single theatre. Even his whimsical outfit was carefully staged: always the same suit, with melon and umbrella, but never unfolded to protect it. Steffen Schleiermacher now directs the spotlight on Satie's seventh series of piano works to his compositions for the stage, including Satie's last work ever, "Relâche", which brought together theatre, music and film in what was then a radically modern multimedia way.
Francis Picabia, one of the last Dadaists, conceived the "plot" of this piece, which is insufficiently described as "ballet". The title fits: "Relâche" describes a day without performances in the theatre. ... There is an absurd film as Entr'acte between the two lifts; "Cinema", composed especially for it, is probably the first independent film music composition ever. In the film, Satie and Picabia are seen firing a cannon over the roofs of Paris; later, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray appear, playing chess.
Satie was always in contact with the great artists of his time. Pablo Picasso, who was also on board for "Parade", provided costumes and stage design for "Mercure", a series of more or less static tableaux that - very distantly - take up the mythological material around Mercury, Zeus and Proserpina. But Satie's long-time friend Contamine de Latour, with whom he shared the suit at times out of sheer financial need, is also represented on Schleiermacher's knowledgeable compilation of three smaller stage works.
Schleiermacher has carefully revised the piano versions, most of which were written by Satie himself - probably as a model for the orchestration - and has taken up instrumentation effects of the mostly very small orchestration. The result between Music Hall and modular music can be heard once again - surprises guaranteed!