"I am working for you": Erik Satie and the conductor Roger Désormière

Satie, Erik, French composer (1866-1925). 3 autograph lettercards signed (address field) and monogrammed "ES".

Arcueil, 7 Feb., 16 Feb. and 26 Feb. 1924.

12mo. Together 3 pp.


Highly interesting correspondence with the young conductor Roger Désormière (1898-1963) concerning a commission for the ballet "Mercure", a possible adaptation of his ballet music "La Belle Excentrique" as a symphonic piece, and Satie's rupture with the Groupe des Six.

On 7 February 1924, Satie criticizes the conductor Paul Paray, and especially his former friends Georges Auric and Francis Poulenc, implying that they make "rotten compromises", while lauding the André Caplet, Vladimir Golschmann, and the recipient as the "only three conductors" that he knows. In spite of a dismissive remark about the soprano Marguertie Bériza, he signals interest in working with her and Désormière: "Pour les spectacles de cette dame, disposez de moi comme vous l'entendrez".

The attack on Auric and Poulenc of the Groupe des Six foreshadows Satie's public rupture with his former friends in an article for the Paris-Journal published on 15 February. In the meantime, Satie had been commissioned to compose ballet music for Étienne de Beaumont's company "Soirées de Paris". The letter from 16 February reflects both events, with Satie first expressing his joy that Désormière was chosen as conductor of the Beaumont "thing", which would become "Mercure". Another project was the symphonic adaptation of his ballet music for "La Belle Excentrique" (1921) for one of Désormière's concerts. Satie concedes that the dancer Élisabeth Toulemont, known as Caryathis, was the owner of the piece, but appears to scold Georges Auric for objecting to the adaptation of the material due to her ownership. He announces he shall "write two little things in collaboration with Tzara" and stresses that he has "the right to turn 'la Belle Excentrique' into a symphonic piece, which Auric knows well but does not say". In closing, Satie advises Désormière to obtain a copy of his piano arrangement of "La Belle Excentrique", published by the famous Éditions de la Sirène in 1922.

The final letter in the collection from 26 February is a reaffirmation of Satie's plans for a rearrangement of "La Belle Excentrique" in order to reassure an impatient Désormière: "I work for you: give me, however, the time to compose what I have to do. Will you be so kind? ... Concerning 'La Belle Excentrique' do not 'worry': as soon as Caryathis will be back from the Midi, I will have the complete material. Yes" (transl.).

Désormière conducted "La Belle Excentrique" on 5 April at Charles Dullin's Théâre de l'Atelier. The premiere of the ballet "Mercure" with Satie's music, stage and costume designs by Pablo Picasso, and a choreography by Léonide Massine on 14 June 1924 resulted in a theatre scandal, as factions of the Parisian avantgarde audience clashed and the Surrealist group led by André Breton and Louis Aragon disrupted the performance.

Traces of folds. Minimally stained. Letter from 16 February somewhat creased.


The letter from 16 February is published in the Correspondance presque complète, no. 1049.

Art.-Nr.: BN#59550 Schlagwort: