The word “gnossienne” describes several pieces of piano music composed by Satie that didn’t fit into any of the existing styles of classical music like a piano prelude or a sonata. Satie easily solved this dilemma by simply titling the pieces with a completely new and made up word, in this case - “gnossienne.” Though the etymology and the pronunciation of Satie’s made up word “gnossienne” remain a mystery to many, what is clear is that his six gnossiennes are wonderfully unique and beyond intriguing.
Satie composed his first three Gnossiennes around 1890, without time signatures and bar lines (often referred to as “absolute time”) and traditional tempo markings. His peculiar scores could be read like musical poetry - one can interpret the piece with very few restrictions, as his tempo markings were made of phrases like “don’t leave”, “lightly, with intimacy” and “don’t be proud.”
Overture, Valse, and Finale from Thomas Adès’ first opera, Powder Her Face (commissioned by Almeida Opera for the Cheltenham Festival in 1995), performed here by the Philharmonia Orchestra at BBC Proms 2007. Christoph von Dohnanyi conducting.