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Reynaldo HAHN (1874-1947)
L'heure exquise
Anastasia Prokofieva (soprano)
Sergey Rybin (piano)
rec. 2018, Cadogan Hall, London
STONE 5060192780888 [60:55]

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.

Ian Lace
1) Aimons-nous [2:34]
2) À une étoile [2:22]
3) Dans l’été [2:43]
4) Tyandaris [1:37]
5) Mai [2:17]
6) Au fil de l’eau [2:18]
7) Nocturne [1:45]
8) Quand la nuit n’est pas étoilée [3:04]
9) Naïs [2:42]
10) Rêverie [1:59]
11) À Chloris [2:54]
12) Le rossignol des lilas [1:56]
13) L’heure exquise [2:18]
14) L’énamourée [3:26]
15) Chanson [2:17]
16) L’incrédule [2:06]
17) Adieu [3:19]
18) Phyllis [3:24]
19) Ta main [1:33]
20) Naguère, au temps des églantines [2:19]
21) Fêtes galantes [1:59]
22) Fleur fanée [2:50]
23) Si mes vers avaient des ailes! [2:20]
24) J’ai caché dans la rose en pleurs [2:07]
25) Mon rêve était d’avoir [2:46]

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