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Reynaldo HAHN
Chansons Grises and other songs
Martyn Hill (tenor) and Graham Johnson (piano)
Helios (Hyperion) CDH55040 (Reissue)
 Amazon UK  Amazon USA about £6

Chansons Grises Les Fontaines. A Chloris. Tyndaris. La chere blessure. L'Air. Quand je fus pris au pavillon. Les Etoiles. L'Automne. Infidelite. Si mes vers avaient des ailes. L'Enamouree. Chanson d'automne. Tous deux. L'allee est sans fin. En sourdine. L'heure exquise. Paysage triste. La bonne chanson. D'une prison. Offrande. L'Incredule. Fetes galantes.    

Hyperion first released this delightful recital in 1982 (as CDA66045). Martin Cooper likened the fluency and charm of Reynaldo Hahn's songs to those of Roger Quilter. Praise indeed!. Yet Hahn had been dismissed as "a talented gossip who had a gift for grinding out operettas and little, tastefully performed ballads in limitless quantities…" On the contrary, this recording proves that these "little ballads" are not so little but beautifully crafted gems.

Hahn's best known song, included in this collection, is Si mes vers avaient des ailes! (If my verses had wings) to verses by Victor Hugo. This exquisite melody was written when Hahn was only thirteen years old. Songs to verses by Théodore de Banville and Paul Verlaine comprise the majority of the other songs on this album. The six songs that make up the cycle known as Chansons Grises was composed when Hahn was only sixteen and they demonstrate an astonishing maturity They are all settings of Verlaine. It was to Verlaine that Hahn responded most cogently. No other composer caught that poet's elusive and allusive atmosphere better than Hahn. Martyn Hill is a most sensitive interpreter of these ravishing songs, capturing the languid perfumed atmosphere of Song of Autumn, the subdued ecstasy of the lovers in Together (with its lovely rippling accompaniment), and the tender calm of Softly.

Of the other songs I must mention the amusing Watteau-esque Fêtes galantes; the equally amusing lyrics of Quand je fus pris au pavillion ("When I was caught in my lady's tent…"), to a poem by Charles, Duke of Orleans (1394-1464) written in a delightfully mock archaic style. Then there is the lovely À Chloris a pseudo-Baroque pastiche of great charm with elegant 17th century decorations and flourishes. Tyndaris is another beautiful creation full of languid charm. Finally, L'Incrédule (The sceptic) - another Verlaine setting - is full of delicious irony as Hahn skilfully conveys the contrast between the credulous superstitious young lady and her sceptical lover who doubts everything except her charms.

Graham Johnson provides his customary sensitive and subtle accompaniments.

An album to treasure by all lovers of French chansons.


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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