Reynaldo HAHN (1875-1947)
Chansons Grises and other songs
Martyn Hill (tenor) and Graham
Helios (Hyperion) CDH55040
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
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.