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L’heure exquise

Songs by Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947)


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Catalogue Number: 5060192780888


A Russian duo brings a lightness and freshness to Hahn’s lovely melodies. Despite a considerable musical output covering works for the stage and large-scale orchestral works, it is for his songs that Reynaldo Hahn is best known. There is a handful of well-known ones, melodies which singers love to bask in, but there are plenty more which repay investigation. On this new disc of Reynaldo Hahn’s songs L’heure exquise on Stone Records, soprano Anastasia Prokofieva and pianist Sergey Rybin given us a wide selection, from Si mes vers avaient des ailes! which was an instant success in 1888 (when he was 14!) right through to Au fil de l’eau and Mon reve etait d’avoir.. from the 1934 film La Dame aux Camelias, to a pair of songs from 9 Mélodies retrouvées published posthumously in 1955. The selection casts its net widely though the majority of songs date from before 1914, which reflects Hahn’s output which declined partly because he served during World War I, and then after the war devoted time to conducting, being general manager of Cannes Casino Opera House and writing criticism for Le Figaro. But it is also because Hahn belonged to the pre-World War One world, to the beau monde, and as he got older and Paris belonged to Stravinsky and Les Six, musically Hahn did not move and stayed true his revered teacher at the Paris Conservatoire, Massenet. The CD booklet includes an excellent essay by Richard Stokes which provides plenty of background on the songs and their texts, but in fact gives us no hint of the criteria for selection, or for arrangement. Certainly Prokofieva and Rybin ignore the published order of the songs, selecting individual songs from collections, but then everyone does. (Planet Hugill)

Reynaldo Hahn was born in Caracas. His parents moved to Paris when he was just three years old. He composed concertos, operas, instrumental works, chamber music and ballet music – and some 125 songs. Hahn often sang his songs to his own accompaniment. There are celebrated reports of him performing them in the salons of the time ‘with an interminable cigarette dangling from his lips, not as a pose but out of habit’. This welcome new collection sung by the delectably-voiced lyric coloratura Anastasia Prokofieva comprises 25 of Hahn’s songs, all delivered beautifully controlled as to shape and line, and sensitively coloured as to spirit and context. She is accompanied equally strongly and persuasively by pianist Sergey Rybin. As I listened, I ticked off each song that impressed me and that I might select to comment on; but I soon noted that I was ticking practically every one, I was so transported by the beauty of the music and the artistic strength of these performances. To mention but a few… First, Hahn’s gorgeous À Chloris, his glorious, languorous Bach pastiche using a bass line of the Air on a G-string to underpin such words of love as “If it is true, Chloris, that you love me… I do not believe that even the kings themselves know happiness equal to mine…” Moving forward in time, there is Fêtes galantes, Hahn’s setting of Verlaine’s that perfectly captures the atmosphere and spirit of Watteau and Fragonard; and, as Richard Sales in his excellent notes for this CD remarks of the accompaniment, “… you can hear the twanged note of the mandolin in the left hand treble clef in both the prelude and postlude and the final words And the mandolin chatters Amid the quivering of the breeze”. Sales also reminds us and comments that Hahn’s song Si mes vers avaient des ailes! composed when Hahn was just thirteen ‘has become, rather unfairly, his most famous song’. For me, there are one or two songs that are outstanding gems amongst so many pearls. I love the haunting melody of L’énamourée (The enamoured) with an equally haunting graveside tribute in words to a dead lover. And I am equally transported by the sentiments movingly expressed by Hahn’s music to Victor Hugo’s Reverie. This is an exquisite Hahn collection, exquisitely delivered and thoroughly recommended. (Musicweb International)

Track listing
  1. Aimons-nous…
  2. À une étoile
  3. Dans l’été
  4. Tyndaris
  5. Mai
  6. Au fil de l’eau
  7. Nocturne
  8. Quand la nuit n’est pas étoilée
  9. Naïs
  10. Rêverie
  11. À Chloris
  12. Le rossignol des lilas
  13. L’heure exquise
  14. L’énamourée
  15. Chanson
  16. L’incrédule
  17. Adieu
  18. Phyllis
  19. Ta main
  20. Naguère, au temps
  21. Fêtes galantes
  22. Fleur fanée
  23. Si mes vers avaient des
  24. J’ai caché dans la rose
  25. Mon rêve était d’avoir…