V2445. REYNALDO HAHN: Composer, Conductor, Singer and Accompanist, incl. Songs by Chabrier, Gounod, Bizet, Rousseau, Offenbach, Massenet, Tiersot & Hahn; Arias from Les Pêcheurs de Perles & Cosi Fan Tutte (self-Accompanied); GUY FERRANT (T): 5 Hahn Songs; HAHN Cond.: Le Bal de Beatrice d'Este - Ballet Suite; w.HELDY, SINGHER & PERNET: Le Marchand de Venise - Excerpts (Cond. by the Composer). (England) Pearl 0003, recorded 1909-35. Transfers by Keith Hardwick. Very Long out-of-print, final ever-so-slightly used copy. - 727031000327
“This is a judiciously chosen selection from amongst Hahn’s many prodigious gifts. The dominating feature is his voice, self-accompanied of course in the manner of George Henschel, and one that has occasioned more than a fair share of critical bewilderment over the years. The register is sometimes uncertain – baritone, low tenor? – and its actual usage has generated a range of responses, from admiration to frigid contempt via speculative amusement. Hahn, of course, was not a professional singer; he did appear at suitably elegant Parisian soirées but his recording career as a singer is quite out of proportion to any public career in the role though clearly not out of proportion to his contemporary musical celebrity. His first recordings date from 1909 and Hahn returned to the studios two years later for a further session. After the end of the First World War, during which he served in the French Army, he was back for more recordings. Pearl includes these in addition to examples from the later sessions, including those provisionally dated to May 1928, as well as the 1930 and 1937 recordings.
It’s most instructive to listen to Hahn’s performance of his own ‘La barcheta’, for example, from VENEZIA, the cycle in the Venetian dialect and a setting of a poem by Pietro Buratti. Hahn is utterly robust; he’s jaunty, not sexy, with the canal-lapping rhythms choppy and animated, the slither of a piano postlude at the end strong and decisive; no sensual crooning for Hahn, this is a hummed song recollected in strength not an invitation to love. Which is no more I suppose than saying that the authorial voice, in musical terms, is predominantly one that eschews emotive highlights. As with most composer-performers Hahn is straightforward and decisive. The famous recording from COSÌ FAN TUTTE demonstrates perfectly the problem of Hahn’s range; he stands on some curious cusp between voice types even though as the very next piece shows, Gounod’s MAID OF ATHENS, he had a non-existent top. Where Hahn really scores is in his idiomatic understanding of parlando – listen to an exceptional example in Bizet’s ‘Chanson d’avril’; there’s no real voice, as such, but the conversational ease is revelatory, the style superb.
From the same session comes one of his most famous sides, Offenbach’s ‘Les charbonniers et fariniers’ and ‘Un homme d’un vrai mérite’ (from LA BOULANGÈRE À DES ÉCUS). The charm is simply ineffable – lightness, perfect articulation of vowels, nostalgic reflection, all held securely in place with the briskest and most scintillating of wit.
Accompanying the tenor Guy Ferrant we can hear how Hahn passed on effortless command of the Recitativo style of song making, of which ‘Chien fidèle’ is the most notable example and how wonderfully he reflects the antique delicacy of Charles d’Orléans’ poetry. As a counterblast try the almost aphoristic reticence of the piano part in ‘Paysage triste’, a wholly superior Verlaine setting.
The disc is more than merely rounded out with the ballet suite LE BAL DE BÉATRICE D’ESTE and a few highlights from LE MARCHAND DE VENISE. There are some colourful woodwind players there in the finest French tradition – gorgeous flautist – and they play with ear titillating panache. The final courante has luscious baroque style trumpet panoply. LA MARCHAND DE VENISE was an opera that was twenty years in the making and received its premiere in 1935. The extracts go some way to pointing the mellifluous ease of the score and the cast, headed by Heldy, with her imperious impersonation of Portia armed only, it seems, with hauteur and some inexhaustibly rolled r’s, is a splendidly involved one.
Hearing Hahn sing is a fascinating experience and hearing the tradition he came to embody, though himself not French born, is one that can, without exaggeration, be traced throughout the course of this splendid disc.”
- Jonathan Woolf