> Reynaldo Hahn - Mélodies Retrouvées [IL]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Reynaldo HAHN (1874-1947)
Feuilles Blessées:

Dans le ciel est dressé le chêne séculaire; Encor sur le pavé sonne mon pas nocturne; Quand reviendra l’automne avec ses feuilles mortes; Belle lune d’argent; Quand je viendrai m’asseoir; Eau printanière; Donc, vous allez fleurir encor;Compagne de l’éther; Pendant que je médite; Roses en bracelet; Aux rayons du couchant.
Love without wings:

Ah! Could I clasp thee in mine arms; The fallen Oak; I know you love me not…’ Oh! For the Wings of a Dove
Five Little Songs:

The Swing; Windy Nights; My Ship and I; The Stars; A Good Boy
Neuf mélodies retrouvèes:

Je me souviens; La vie est belle; L’Amitié; Chanson; Naïs; La nymphe de la source;Au Rossignol; Ta main; Sous l’oranger (Tango habañera)

Chanson au bord de la fontaine; Danse, petite sirène
La dame aux camélias:

Mon rêve était d’avoir; C’est à Paris; Au fil de l’eau

Catherine Dune (soprano) Didier Henry (baritone)
with Stéphane Petitjean (piano)
MAGUELONE MAG 111.108 [65:47]


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This album that asserts that it comprises the first recordings of 34 Hahn songs (wrongly for two are available on Hyperion) can be purchased on its own. Alternatively you can buy it as part of Maguelone’s 3 CD set of Reynaldo Hahn works including the Violin Sonata, Piano Quintet, Piano Concerto, Violin Concerto and Suite Hongroise.

Reynaldo Hahn composed 125 songs and almost 100 of them have now been recorded after too many years’ neglect. Their charm, elegance and sophistication belie a former received image of Hahn as a sophisticated dandy, doyen of the Paris salons during La Belle Époque, and creator of unremarkable even facile music.

Baritone, Didier Henry mixes just the right amount of sophisticated worldly ennui and regretful nostalgia in his renderings of the eleven songs that comprise Feuilles blessées. These are so full of nostalgia for things gone by as are the Neuf mélodies. Stéphane Petitjean provides the most subtle, delicate, spontaneous-seeming, sympathetic accompaniments throughout this recital.

A golden nostalgic glow covers the songs of Feuilles blessées (Wounded leaves) begun in Paris in 1901. In the opening song ‘Dans le ciel est dressé le chêne séculaire’, the majesty of the age-old oak is proclaimed in a peroration that is soon mitigated in the sadness of memories recalled like fallen leaves. This mood is sustained through ‘Quand reviendra l’automne’ expressing in hushed emotional and confidential tones. These are the sorts of memory, lost and regained, that were so dear to Hahn’s friend Proust. A more overt, more passionate melody with a strong assertive piano part is heard in ‘Quand je viendrai m’asseoir’. It contrasts with the exquisite ‘Eau printanière’ with the piano delicately tracing the Spring waters while the vocal line reminisces quietly, ruefully. Equally enchanting is the languishing ‘Pendant que je médite’. But all eleven mélodies captivate the ear.

Neuf mélodies retrouvées were rediscovered by René Schrameck and published by Salabert in 1955 nine years after the composer’s death. They embrace a multitude of ideas and feelings. There is the fleeting tenderness of Je me souviens, one of Hahn’s most haunting melodies with its sighing Amen-like final chord. The amiability and enthusiasm of the piano part underlines the singer’s heartfelt cry La vie est belle. Both Naïs and La Nymphe de la Source are enraptured, enamoured evocations of the spirit world in which cool springs seem to glisten in dappled sunshine. The simple but charming melody that is Au Rossignol pays homage to the enchanting song of the nightingale.

Catherine Dune sings the two cycles of songs in the English language. This she does both expressively and with sympathy to the salon sentimentality of Mary Robinson’s (Mme Emile Duclaux) Love Without Wings. ‘Ah could I clasp thee in my arms’, is a most imaginative setting that, with its silence following an introductory exclamation and an affecting finale "at the back of the throat", gently mocks contemporary society soirées. ‘I know you love me not’ is just as interesting with its almost recitative vocal line over words like "I know you love me not…" until the more passionate lyrical release of the final two lines: "I haunt you like the magic of a poet…And charm you like a song". Oh for the wings of a dove is an impassioned plea for the soul’s release against agitated arpeggios.

Catherine Dune is equally sympathetic and not at all condescending (an attitude so essential in singing the rather twee ‘My Ship and I’ and ‘A good boy’) in the fragile nature of Hahn’s enchanting settings of Robert Louis Stevenson’s childhood verses, the piano part evoking playful rhythms for ‘The Swing’ and the galloping horseman of ‘Windy Nights’. The most impressive song is ‘The Stars’ with its vibrant, close-textured strumming in the piano suggests a multitude of close-knit stars. The beauty of the vocal line at the climactic lines: "But the glory kept shining and bright in my eyes And the stars going round in my head" is also notable.

Dune also sings two melodies from the incidental music Hahn composed for Maurice Magré’s Méduse based on the Greek tragedy. Chanson au bord de la fontaine (Song near the fountain) is a soulful lament of troubled love (sung despairingly with beautiful control over a sparse halting piano) while in ‘Danse, petit sirène’ the piano part quietly scintillates as the singer warns that the siren’s "eyes are inconstant as the sea." Some film music concludes Dune’s contribution – from La Dame aux Camélias - with the rather more overtly melodic ‘Mon rêve était d’avoir un amant confiant, soumis, discret’ (My dream was to have a trusting, submissive and discreet lover), and the joyful, outgoing "Ou’s qu’y a d’bell’s fill’s" (Where the pretty girls are) with its catchy refrain – C’est à Paris, c’est à Paris ma fille, c’est à Paris!

An important premiere recording of over 30 songs, many quite exquisite. These prove that Reynaldo Hahn was much more than a dandy and darling of the Paris salons through La belle Époque.

Ian Lace

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