The exquisite hour

Reynaldo Hahn is a great composer. Cultivated, refined, a lover of poetry. And yet he remains little known to the public. Of all musicians, it is the singers who know him best for his delicate and subtle melodies.

He is someone who has a deep sense of the text and its setting to music.

reynaldo hahn portrait

It’s also a special destiny. Born in Venezuela in 1874 with a mother of Basque origin and a German father, Reynaldo arrived in France at a fairly young age. It was he who demanded that he be sent to the front in 1914, long before applying for naturalization.

He remained linked to Massenet, his composition teacher. A mutual respect and esteem. He continued to present his works to him while Massenet asked him to verify his own.

And what about his love affair with Marcel Proust before pursuing with him a solid and beautiful friendship ?

« If that feeds your thoughts as a poet and your genius as a musician, at least I will have the sweetness to think that I have not been useless to you. »

We keep an important correspondence from them and I can’t wait to read it!

lettre marcel proust reynaldo hahn

 


 

I had already recorded Hahn’s famous melody A Chloris – with my modest means (I’m talking about me, not the microphones 😅). That was about a year ago.

I love the text, its preciousness but also its mythological references. His music’s a bit neo-classical too, of course !

 

Yesterday, I recorded a second melody from him: L’Heure Exquise.

It will probably seem incredible to you but what is one of his most famous works was totally unknown to me. 😶

A revelation that I felt the need to make music and feelings my own.

It is an ethereal work, suspended, almost motionless, light pendulum  that alternates its arpeggios on 2 pivotal chords and the iridescence of a few foreign notes. Everything seems simple, astonishingly minimalist.

The score seems naked to me, tissue paper that I wouldn’t want to tear with my imperfect playing. And that high pitch, that elan that calls to me…

How difficult it is for me to play this !  Of course I would like it to be perfect, but I don’t feel like prolonging the effort for fear of making it artificial.

I prefer that of immediacy.

While reading this poem, how could I think of Verlaine without Rimbaud coming to intrude a short moment in my thoughts? It’s a forest of symbols, from Baudelaire to Mallarmé. It’s Bachelard‘s Water and Dreams that come to the surface. It’s crystal clear. Evanescent.

The white moon
Glows in the woods;
From every branch
Share one vote.
Underneath the boom…

O beloved.

The pond reflects,
Deep mirror,
The silhouette
Black willow
Where the wind weeps…

Let’s dream, it’s time.

A vast and tender
Apaisement
Seems to go down
From the firmament
Let the star iridescent…

It’s exquisite time.