La belle excentrique - Flexible Woodwind Sextet/Septet/Octet

La belle excentrique - Flexible Woodwind Sextet/Septet/Octet

Printed set (Score & Parts)

I. Grande ritournelle
II. Marche franco-lunaire
III. Valse Du "Mysterieux Baiser Dans L'Oeil"
IV. Cancan ' Grand-mondain'

[Part 1 (optional)] Piccolo (doubling Flute)
[Part 2] Flute, Eb Clarinet
[Part 3] Oboe, Bb Clarinet
[Part 4] Bb Clarinet, Eb Alto Saxophone
[Part 5] Bb Clarinet, Bb Tenor Saxophone, Eb Alto Saxophone
[Part 6] Bb Clarinet, Bb Tenor Saxophone, Eb Alto Clarinet
[Part 7] Bassoon, Bb Bass Clarinet, Eb Baritone Saxophone
[Part 8 (optional)] Bassoon, Bb Bass Clarinet, Eb Baritone Saxophone

French composer Erik Satie (1866-1925) is famous for his piano compositions such as "Gymnopédies" and "Gnossiennes". Perhaps his most enduring work is "Je te veux" and similar music composed for café concert. Satie was a respected figure in the early 20th-century Parisian avant-garde. His work was a precursor to subsequent musical advances in minimalism, surrealism, repetitive music, and the Theatre of the Absurd. He was highly respected by many major composers, including Ravel and Debussy.

"La belle excentrique" was written as a dance suite for small orchestra. It was conceived as a choreographic stage work and by modern standards can be considered a ballet. It premiered in June 1920 and the main dancer was called "La belle excentrique" even after the event was over. Satie later adapted it to four hand piano duet.

Satie gave it the whimsical subtitle "fantaisie sérieuse" ("A Serious Fantasy") and it consists of four movements:
1. Grande ritournelle (Grand Ritornello) and three dances
2. Marche franco-lunaire (Franco-Lunar March)
3. Valse du mysterieux baiser dans l'œil (Waltz of the Mysterious Kiss in the Eye)
4. Cancan Grand-Mondain (High-Society Cancan)

Ritornello is a recurring passage in Baroque music. Satie evidently intended it as a recurring interlude between dances to allow for costume change. But it also makes an effective introduction and is commonly performed as such, especially in recordings.

Satie relies on his unique harmony and chord progressions. It might be a little difficult to blend, balance, and match but still be confident in sound production and enjoy the eccentric colors. Close attention should be paid to not let accompaniment parts overpower melodies.

Since Parts 1 and 8 can be omitted, from sextet to octet is possible. If performed as a mixed woodwind ensemble, alto sax is recommended for Part 4's balance and timbre.

The recommended instrumentation is Picc. (doub. Fl.) / Fl. / Cl. / A. Sax / Cl. / T. Sax. / B. Sax. / B. Cl (Parts 7 and 8 can switch between movements). Or, minus Part 1, clarinet sextet or septet [EbCl. / Cl. / Cl. / Cl. / Cl. or A. Cl. / B. Cl. / B. Cl.(Opt.)]. Whatever the instrumentation, attention to balance is a priority.

The original transcription was commissioned by Izumi Junior High School Band, Ome, Tokyo in 2009. It was then rearranged to Woodwind Flexible Ensemble in 2014, commissioned by Brain Music (Bravo Music, USA).

(Keiichi Kurokawa)