La belle eccentrique is a suite for small orchestra. It
numbers among Satie 's many music-hall pieces, written
in what musicologists call his "café-concert idiom."
This work was created in collaboration with Jean
Cocteau and was first performed in 1921. It consists of
four short numbers: "Grand Ritornello," "Franco-Lunar
March," "Waltz of the Mysterious Kiss in the Eye," and
"High-Society Cancan." It is easy to tell that this is
a comic work, replete with much silliness and whimsy.
Though touted as a "fantaisie serieuse" for small
orchestra, it is also a work that may be staged, and
Cocteau was involved in the work's original
realization. Versions for piano solo and piano duet
Alan Gillmor, a Satie scholar, has noted that while
many of Satie's works possess an ironic humor by virtue
of their use of familiar tunes and their witty,
eccentric commentary. La belle eccentrique is really a
work whose humor lies close to the surface. It has
little to offer in the way of subtlety, what with its
crashing ragtime and cancan rhythms, stumbling waltzes,
and grotesque, bombastic music-hall timbres. The piece
is clearly, as Gillmor has noted, a return to Satie's
music-hall aesthetic of the turn of the century. The
opening of the work, the "Grand Ritornello," provides
both an introduction to the work an interlude between
the three subsequent movements, which are dances. Since
the work is staged, these interludes provide time for
dancers to change costumes.
La Belle Eccentrique is important for two reasons.
First, it shows, in Debussy's words, how "adaptable"
Satie really was, composing adjacent pieces of sharply
contrasting style, form, and character despite his
critics' claims that he was little more than an
amateur. And second, this work demonstrates the
importance of melody in Satie's music, and his
insistence that, even when using relatively simple
popular or popular-inspired melodies, inventive,
unpredictable harmonies (rather than those implied by
the melodic line) may be employed to accompany them.
Although originally written for small orchestra, this
piece has been adapted to Piano (4 hands).