Satie Transformations

Orchestra (1970)
[also published as three piano pieces with the same title taken from the score]

Satie Transformations is a dream-like fantasy about the eccentric French composer Erik Satie (1866-1925). It was commissioned by the Feeney Trust, premiered by the CBSO at the Cheltenham Festival on 31 July 1970 under Meredith Davies, and recorded by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Clark Rundell in 2015. The work is based on three of Satie’s best-known piano pieces - the first three Gnossiennes (1890). The melodies of all three are clearly heard in various forms both straight and swung, sometimes simultaneously. There are five sections:

1. Adagio, with the first Gnossienne heard high in the piano as an accompaniment to the main theme in the strings.
2. Allegro, over a pizzicato jazz bass, leading to the entry of a solo trumpet with a swung version of the first Gnossienne. At the climax, over the assertive timpani, the openings of all three Gnossiennes are heard on the tubular bells.
3. Andante – a blues based on the second Gnossienne, straight on the piccolo and the glockenspiel in contrast to the blues version in clarinet and cor anglais.
4. Allegro – based on the third Gnossienne, the main theme in the oboe interrupted with big band treatments in the brass and continuous rhythmic backing. At the climax material from all three Gnossiennes is superimposed.
5. Adagio – returns to the calm of the opening with the main theme as a flute solo.

Peter Dickinson is well qualified to pay tribute to Satie. With his sister, mezzo-soprano Meriel Dickinson, he helped to make the music of Satie known in the 1960s and 70s with recitals, broadcasts and recordings. His CD of Satie’s piano music has been an international best-seller for over twenty years.

© 2008-24 Estate of Peter Dickinson