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RON BIERMAN listens to the music of Reynaldo Hahn

Auvidis    V 4848

Reynaldo Hahn. © 1999 Auvidis France

Reynaldo Hahn was a French composer of the first half of the twentieth century with a broad interest in the arts. Marcel Proust and Sarah Bernhardt were among his friends. He sang some of his own songs while performing at the piano and seems at times to have been a French version of Noel Coward.

Hahn is best known for his vocal music, but the three pieces here are examples of his often charming works for small instrumental groups. The disk starts with the Quintet for piano and strings, during Hahn's lifetime, one of his most popular non-vocal works. It is in three conventionally constructed movements (fast, slow, fast). Melodies are attractive and straight-forward. The lushest one appears early [listen -- track 1, 0:45-1:40]. It returns in the concluding rondo along with other material from the first and second movements.

The first Quartet for strings also increases the unity of composition by referring to first movement melodies in the concluding movement. The first movement is in sonata form. The second is a short, graceful tribute to French music around the time of Rameau. A quiet third movement is followed by a lively rondo.

The second Quartet is the most serious of the three pieces here. The first movement even features a bit of a fugue [listen -- track 8, 2:42-3:41]. But Hahn's deepest moments are still among the most gentle in twentieth century music. The final movement is an ingratiating waltz with memories of the fugue theme making an appearance [listen -- track 11, 0:00-1:17].

Hahn's conservative style was most closely related to Fauré, Franck and even Saint-Saëns. Melodies have immediate appeal and harmonies are mild. The Parisii Quartet and pianist Alexandre Tharaud are excellent and perform with an obvious warm affection.

Some will find Hahn bland and wish for more challenge and excitement, but this refined music is well made. I found much to like and recommend the recording without reservation to listeners open minded enough to enjoy the conventional.

Copyright © 29 March 2003 Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA


Quatuor Parisii - Reynaldo Hahn

V 4848 DDD Stereo 68'36" 1999 Auvidis France

Alexandre Tharaud, piano; Quatuor Parisii

Reynaldo Hahn: Piano Quintet in F minor (1921); String Quartet in A minor (1939); String Quartet in F major



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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular Saturday series of shorter CD reviews