Songs of Reynaldo Hahn

Reynaldo Hahn




“Strikingly programmed... Gordin communicates tangible pleasure in his material... Nies is an attractive accompanist, admirably restrained and unsentimental. It's an engaging disc.”
Tim Ashley, Gramophone [January 2018]
“Gordin’s voice is well suited to these songs. Much of his elegant singing is hushed and very tender; he brings an intimate and appropriately dreamy quality to the songs. His voice has such a light timbre that I thought until well into the program that I was listening to a tenor. I’ve appreciated Hahn’s songs since I first discovered them a decade ago and never more
than here; Gordin’s singing is so intoxicating that I could hardly stop listening. The engineering of this recording puts you
close to the performers with Gordin just to the right of center. It also allows you to hear Nies’s playing very intimately.”
Moore, American Record Guide [January/February 2018]
“This MSR Classics release, recorded by Swineshead Productions engineer David v.R. Bowles with the ambient clarity that the music requires, restores Hahn’s songs their rightful place alongside the works of Henri Duparc, Gabriel Fauré, Édith Piaf, and Charles Aznavour as a pillar of French chanson... Gordin and Nies bring to their traversals of the twenty-one songs on Amour sans ailes an artistic alliance of near-perfect symbiosis... Gordin sounds like an exemplar of a Fach long thought to be extinct: the uniquely French baryton-Martin. Uniting a plush lower octave, smooth navigation of the passaggio, and well-supported falsetto, the baritone sings this music as though he composed the songs himself, projecting a sense of spontaneity even when meticulous care governs his phrasing... the pianist plays with the vigor of first discovery, and the baritone’s chic singing triggers memories of Gérard Souzay. Above all, though, Gordin recognizes that this is not music that should be whimpered or whined: whilst listening to this disc, one is unlikely to ever feel compelled, as one sometimes does when hearing Souzay performances, to exclaim, ‘Just sing, s’il vous plaît!’ Simply singing—which is not to be confused with singing simply—is what Gordin does best.”
Joey Newsome, Voix des Arts [January 2018]
“a fine overview of Hahn’s work... Baritone Zachary Gordin has a warm, assured voice that fits the tone of Hahn’s songs well, and pianist Bryan Nies provides thoughtful, well-considered accompaniment that never moves far into the foreground (that was not Hahn’s style) but that offers a fine pairing for Gordin’s vocals.”
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [November 2017]
"I heard him sing only once in Annales, too little to speak of him at length, enough to be entranced. Was it beautiful? No, it was unforgettable. The voice was nothing exceptional… a fine baritone voice, not very large, flexible as grass, ruled with a marvelous intelligence, a reflective divination… He sang as we breathe, out of necessity.” [Bernard Gavoty / "Reynaldo Hahn: Le musicien de la Belle Époque"]

This recording represents more than the English cycle of the same name: it depicts the ethos of the music, poetry and, perhaps, of Hahn himself. From the musically admired and respected artist early in his career, to the cantankerous, troubled adult, longing for companionship and wishing to live in an earlier time and culture, these songs also serve as an aural exposition of his life.

This selection of mélodies, with a few exceptions (for musical flow and programming), is arranged chronologically and provides a window into Hahn’s development as a composer. The cycle Chansons Grises, written when he was only 12-15 years old, shows his prodigious talents and the influence of his teachers Fauré, Saint-Saëns, and Massenet from the Paris Conservatory, where Hahn was the rare exception as a particularly young student admitted into the esteemed school. The repeated figures in the accompaniment of Tous deux (among many others) show the influence of Fauré, for example, while the harmonic and melodic influence of Massenet in L’Énamourée (a late composition) is unmistakable. From this perspective, it is easy to hear Hahn’s cultural preference for an earlier period (La Belle Époque) and not the modern harmonic language of his contemporaries like Debussy and Ravel.

Examples exist, however, where his music more closely resembles the modern style of his contemporaries. The songs Dans la nuit and Nocturne seem like typical Hahn, but the harmonic planing (in the 3rd to 5th measures of Nuit) and augmented chord use (a daring and effective use as an ending harmony) were often utilized by the Impressionists Debussy and Ravel and helped define their distinctive sounds (Nocturne ends similarly). More notable, however, is the small cycle that inspired the name Love Without Wings. Although brief in length, the extensively chromatic harmonies and melodies are a departure from the more traditional songs written before or after this cycle. Evocative, intense, and chromatically challenging, yet very concise, Hahn’s music brings a unique color and interpretation to the poetry in this cycle not found in his other songs despite similar thematic content.

Hahn’s music is not only an emotional but a psychological window into the artist and man. Despite the intense (and seemingly only true) love affair Hahn had with Proust early in his adult life, Hahn chose to remain closeted in his social circles later in life and openly wished to be living in an earlier period: one that brought him praise and attention within a structured, polite, and less open set of societal expectations. If an artist truly shows oneself through their work, Hahn’s music exhibits that self-isolated restraint, yet reveals his deeply emotional yearning for another time, and another love. His choice of poetry confirms this yearning and deeply felt passion, almost always in the context of unrequited love. As stated most eloquently by his lover Marcel Proust, there is value in experiencing Hahn’s music: “When he takes his place at the piano, with a cigarette in the corner of his mouth, everyone is quiet and gathers around to listen. Every note is a word or a cry. His head is slightly tilted back: his mouth is melancholy and rather scornful. Thence emanates the saddest and warmest voice you can imagine. This instrument of genius, by name Reynaldo Hahn, moves our hearts, moistens our eyes, cures us one after the other in a silent and solemn undulation. Never since Schumann has music painted sorrow, tenderness, the calm induced by nature, with such brush strokes of human truth and absolute beauty.” [Bryan Nies, September 2017]

After baritone Zachary Gordin and conductor/pianist Bryan Nies first collaborated on a tumultuous production of Puccini’s Tosca, they both thought that any future performances together were over, and that even speaking to each other was doubtful. Years later, however, through numerous concerts, opera productions, recitals (and a few cocktails), they have forged a musical synergy and passion for sharing music from composers with compelling stories to tell through song. This disc marks the culmination of that artistic partnership, spanning more than ten years and many veins of repertoire. From Zachary’s warm yet powerful baritone to Bryan’s witty and informative banter, the duo thrives on giving performances that engage the seasoned audience and welcome newcomers.
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REYNALDO HAHN (1874-1947)
RÊVERIE (1888) | Text: Victor Hugo

CHANSON GRISES (1887-90) | Text: Paul Verlaine
Chanson d’automne
Tous deux
L’Allée est sans fin...
En Sourdine
L’heure exquise
Paysage triste
La bonne chanson

TROIS JOURS DE VENDANGE (1891) | Text: Alphonse Daudet

ÉTUDES LATINES (1899-1900) | Text: Leconte de Lisle

L’INCRÉDULE (1893) | Text: Paul Verlaine

NOCTURNE (1893) | Text: Jean Lahor

DANS LA NUIT (1904) | Text: Jean Moréas

LA CHÈRE BLESSURE (1900) | Text: Augustine-Malvina Blanchecotte

LOVE WITHOUT WINGS (1899) | Text: Mary Robinson
Ah! Could I clasp thee in mine arms
The fallen oak
I know you love me not

L’ÉNAMOURÉE (1891) | Text: Théodore de Banville

À CHLORIS (1913) | Text: Théophile de Viau

FÊTES GALANTES (1892) | Text: Paul Verlaine

MSR Classics