Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

REYNALDO HAHN (1875-1947) Piano Quintet (1921) [26 mins] String Quartet No. 1 (1939) [18 mins] String Quartet No. 2 (1940) [23 mins] Alexander Tharaud (piano) Quatuor Parisii   world premiere recordings AUVIDIS VALOIS V4848 [67.45]

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Hahn is better known for his operetta Ciboulette and for his songs than for the chamber or orchestral music. In fact there is a violin concerto, a piano concerto as well as a substantial quantity of chamber works.

Once again Auvidis Valois have produced a matchless product - exemplary performances, recording and documentation in French and English. The photographs are especially good.

The music is determinedly melodic in character - so no surprise there! The style leans towards Fauré and Franck rather than towards the perfumed gardens of Schmitt, Ravel and Debussy.

The quintet which was the most frequently performed chamber work during his lifetime is torrentially tuneful. It bursts the bounds of joyous celebration in music of succulent ecstasy in a way closer to Franck and Chausson (as in the Concert) than to the involved subtlety of late Fauré. This is true of the two flanking movements of the three movement work. The central movement is more reflective. You simply have to hear this piece if you have any affection at all for the chamber works of Fauré or Franck or Chausson.

During the 1910s and 1920s Hahn denied the attractions of the string quartet. It was only on the brink of (or over the edge of) another War that he recanted and produced in quick succession two essays in the medium. At his death he was intending to start a third.

The first quartet is harmonically involved but after an introit it moves into an almost Viennese theme - dashing and carefree with a Dvorákian character and a hiccup in the line. Some of the momentum is lost towards the thoughtful end of the first movement. The low key medieval carol of the second movement contrasts with the severity and reserved trudging sweetness of the andantino. A Mozartian lightness of spirit breathes through the flighty allegro assai - utterly delightful. This is a wonderful discovery. The second quartet also has four movements imbued with Mozartian levity and unaffected sentiment, Bachian firefly grace, a devil-may-care panache, thoughtful awed reflection (in the Posément) and a Très Vite that has the breezy step and mercurial manner of a man-about-town.

Once again thanks are due to L'Association Française pour le Patrimoine Musical for funding this fine revival. Can we expect more Hahn? How about now turning to Guy-Ropartz's Symphonies 1, 2, 4 and 5?

Recommended to Gallophiles, to anyone at all interested in the development of chamber music in France and to any listener intent on broadening their repertoire of tuneful fibrously substantial chamber music … in fact to anyone who wants to their stock of genuinely emotional and accessible chamber music.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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