Unsent Love Letters: Meditations on Erik Satie Elena Kats-Chernin/ Tamara-Anna Cislowska ABC Classics If Elena Kats-Chernin had married Erik Alfred Leslie Satie, their musical children would have sounded like the 26 little piano pieces on this beguiling album. Inspired by the love letters Satie wrote to his muse Suzanne Valadon — they were discovered in his apartment after his death — these miniatures spring from the imagination of a composer unrivalled in Australian music for her wit and whimsy.
Deceptively simple and unadorned, they trickle off the nimble fingers of Tamara-Anna Cislowska, almost the “house pianist” for KatsChernin, whose music she has championed in several existing recording projects. In fact, there are moments that sound almost like duets; short of overdubbing, perhaps the composer herself figures as a kind of phantom pianist?
There are hints also of other technical magic in the nether regions of the keyboard. At times, in pieces such as Sarabande, it is hard to know where Satie leaves off and Kats-Chernin picks up. At other times, for example in Absynthe Cocktail, a shade more waywardness in delivery might have been appropriate. At this point, the listener imagines the composer working her way through Satie’s entire drinks cabinet.
Kats-Chernin is a woman of the theatre and these pieces inhabit a kind of imaginary theatre. This is the kind of music that could exist at various levels: simple pieces for young recitalists and examination books, all the way to late-night cabaret acts in Spiegeltents, best accompanied by exotic libations. For some, the music of KatsChernin is an acquired taste: a little of it goes a long way. Here it is hard to argue with its sincerity, wit and charm. And without any sign of Satie’s famous collection of umbrellas.