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Reynaldo Hahn

Reynaldo Hahn - © Painting by Lucie Lambert, 1907 (source: wikipedia)

born on 9/8/1875 in Caracas, Miranda, Venezuela

died on 28/1/1947 in Paris, Île-de-France, France

Reynaldo Hahn

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Reynaldo Hahn (French: [ʁɛ an]; August 9, 1874 – January 28, 1947) was a Venezuelan, naturalised French, composer, conductor, music critic, diarist, theatre director, and salon singer. Best known as a composer of songs, he wrote in the French classical tradition of the mélodie.

Child prodigy

Reynaldo Hahn was born in Caracas, Venezuela, the youngest of twelve children. Reynaldo's father Carlos was an affluent engineer, inventor, and businessman of German-Jewish extraction;[1] his mother, Elena María de Echenagucia, was a Venezuelan of Spanish (Basque) origin, and like most wealthy families in that country, descended from Spanish colonists. His father knew the Venezuelan President Antonio Guzmán Blanco,[2] but the increasingly volatile political atmosphere at the end of his first term in 1877 caused his father to retire and leave Venezuela.

Hahn's family moved to Paris when he was three years old. Although he showed interest in his native music of Caracas in his youth, France would "determine and define Hahn's musical identity in later life".[3] The city and its cultural resources: the Paris Opéra, the Paris Opéra Ballet, the Opéra-Comique, in addition to the nexus of artists and writers, proved an ideal setting for the precocious Hahn.

A child prodigy, Reynaldo made his début at the salon of the eccentric Princess Mathilde (Napoleon's niece),[3] accompanying himself on the piano as he sang arias by Jacques Offenbach. At the age of eight, Hahn composed his first songs.

Despite the Paris Conservatoire's tradition of antipathy towards child prodigies—Franz Liszt had famously been rebuffed by the school many years before—Hahn entered the school at the age of ten. His teachers included Jules Massenet, Charles Gounod, Camille Saint-Saëns and Émile Decombes. Alfred Cortot and Maurice Ravel were fellow students.

"Si mes vers avaient des ailes"

In 1888 Reynaldo composed "Si mes vers avaient des ailes" to a poem by Victor Hugo; it was an instant success when published by Le Figaro. From this exposure and publicity, Hahn came into contact with many leading artists in Paris (in addition to the relationships he cultivated at the Conservatoire). The famed soprano Sybil Sanderson and the writer Alphonse Daudet invited Hahn into their social sphere. Hahn had "a special gift" of attracting "important people to his side".[4]

Like many other French song composers of the time, Hahn was attracted to Hugo's poetry. Many of the hallmarks of Hahn's music are already evident in "Si mes vers": the undulating piano accompaniment, the vocal line derived from the patterns and intimacy of speech, the surprising intervals and cadences, the cleverly placed mezza voce, and the sophistication and depth of feeling—all the more impressive because he was only thirteen when he composed it.

Paul Verlaine, another poet whose lyrics inspired many of Reynaldo's songs, had on one occasion a chance to hear the young composer's settings of his poems (which Hahn entitled Chansons grises, begun in 1887 when Hahn was twelve years old and finished three years later). The poet "wept to hear Hahn's songs". Stéphane Mallarmé, also present, wrote the following stanza:

Le pleur qui chante au langage
Du poète, Reynaldo
Hahn, tendrement le dégage
Comme en l'allée un jet d'eau.

Hahn and Proust

By the age of nineteen in 1894, Hahn had written many songs about love; however, his worldly sophistication masked shyness about his own personal feelings. He had close intimate friendships with women, and they were clearly fond of the gallant and charming young composer. Cléo de Mérode, a famous beauty of le beau monde and three years older than Hahn, inspired him to write: "I worship her as a great and perfect work of art". Despite this tribute to her, he reportedly loved her only at a distance his whole life. The famed courtesan Liane de Pougy referred to Hahn in her diary as the "sweetness in her life." Though close friends, their relationship ended when de Pougy married. Hahn famously told her: "Goodbye Lianon. I hate married people." Hahn was a closeted homosexual, even though in his personal letters he was frequently critical of homosexuals and homosexuality.[5]

In 1894, Hahn met the aspiring writer Marcel Proust at the home of artist Madeleine Lemaire. Proust and Hahn shared a love for painting, literature, and Fauré. They became lovers[6] and often travelled together and collaborated on various projects. One of those projects, Portraits de peintres (1896), is a work consisting of spoken text with piano accompaniment.

Hahn honed his writing skills during this period, becoming one of the best critics on music and musicians. Seldom appreciating his contemporaries, he instead admired the artists of the past (shown in his portraits of legendary figures). His writing, like Proust's, was characterised by a deft skill in depicting small details.

World wars and interwar activities

In 1909, Hahn became a French citizen. In 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, he volunteered for service in the French Army. At 40, he was older than the official conscription age but was accepted and served, first as a private, finally reaching the rank of corporal. While at the front he composed a song cycle based on poems by Robert Louis Stevenson.

As a conductor Hahn specialised in Mozart, conducting the initial performances of the Salzburg Festival at the invitation of Lilli Lehmann when the festival was revived after World War I. He also served in the 1920s and 1930s as general manager of the Cannes Casino opera house. For many years he was the influential music critic of the leading Paris daily, Le Figaro.

In 1931 appeared Hahn's operetta Brummell, to a libretto by Rip and Robert Dieudonné[7]

Hahn was given the score of Bizet's unperformed Symphony in C by the composer's widow. Hahn in turn deposited the score in the library of the Paris Conservatory, where it was discovered in 1933 and given its first performance in 1935.

Forced to leave Paris in 1940 during the Nazi occupation, he returned at the end of the war in 1945 to fulfill his appointment as director of the Paris Opera. He died in 1947 of a brain tumor, without executing the reforms for which his supporters had hoped.[4]



  1. ^ The melodies of Reynaldo Hahn, Thea Sikora Engelson, 1966, page 11, ISBN 9780542795169]
  2. ^ "Bio" (PDF). 
  3. ^ a b c Quinn, Michael (November 2004), "Will the Real Reynaldo Hahn Please Stand Up?", The Gramophone, p. A15 
  4. ^ a b Johnson, Graham (1996). Felicity Lott, Susan Bickley, Ian Bostridge, Stephen Varcoe, Graham Johnson. In "Songs by Reynaldo Hahn" [CD Liner Notes]. London: Hyperion.
  5. ^ Carter, William C. Marcel Proust. Yale University Press (2000) p. 167.
  6. ^ Carter, William C. (2006), Proust in Love, Yale University Press, pp. 31–5, ISBN 0-300-10812-5 
  7. ^ "Brummell", Encyclopédie multimedia de la comédie musicale en France website (in French), accessed 25 June 2018

Further reading

  • Marcel Proust, Lettres à Reynaldo Hahn, Paris 1956
  • D. Bendahan, Reynaldo Hahn : su vida y su obra, Caracas 1973, 21979, 31992
  • E. Estrada Arriens, Mis recuerdos de Reynaldo Hahn : el crepúsculo de la Belle Époque, Caracas 1974
  • W. Schuh, "Zum Liedwerk Reynaldo Hahns", in Schweizer Beiträge zur Musikwissenschaft, Bern, Stuttgart 1974, 103-126 (= Publications de la Société suisse de musicologie, 3/2)
  • Bernard Gavoty, Reynaldo Hahn : le musicien de la Belle Époque, Paris 1976,
  • J.-Chr. Étienne, L’Œuvre pour piano de Reynaldo Hahn, maîtrise, université de Toulouse II, 1981
  • L. Gorrell, "Reynaldo Hahn : composer of song, mirror of an era", in The Music Review 46/4, 1985, 284-301
  • A. Di Marco, Reynaldo Hahn musicista della Belle Époque, tesi di laurea, Università di Roma La Sapienza, 1986–1987
  • G. P. Minardi, "Les bijoux poétiques du petit Bunibuls", in All’ombra delle fanciulle in fiore : la musica in Francia nell’età di Proust, Monfalcone 1987, 59-75
  • D. L. Spurgeon, A study of the solo vocal works of Reynaldo Hahn with analysis of selected mélodies, DMA, University of Oklahoma, 1988
  • M. Milanca Guzmán, Reynaldo Hahn caraqueño : contribución à la biografía caraqueña de Reynaldo Hahn Echenagucia, Caracas 1989 (= Biblioteca de la Academia nacional de la historia, Estudios, monografías y ensayos, 121)
  • S. L. Moulton, "A musical anachronism : Reynaldo Hahn and his music", in Ars musica Denver 1/2, 1989, 1-13
  • Philippe Blay, « Douze lettres de Reynaldo Hahn ». Bulletin Marcel Proust, 1993, no 43, p. 37-57.
  • Philippe Blay, Hervé Lacombe. « À l'ombre de Massenet, Proust et Loti : le manuscrit autographe de L'Île du rêve de Reynaldo Hahn ». Revue de musicologie, 1993, t. 79, no 1, p. 83-108. Rééd. in Bulletin de l'Association Massenet, décembre 1996, no 4, p. 17-22.
  • A. Menicacci, "Reynaldo Hahn direttore mozartiano : tre lettere inedite", in Ottocento e oltre : scritti in onore di Raoul Meloncelli, Roma 1993, 521-533 (= Itinerari musicali a cura dell’Associazione Culturale Costellazione Musica, Roma, 2)
  • A. Menicacci, Reynaldo Hahn e la danza : elementi biografici e analisi dei balletti, tesi di laurea, Università di Roma La Sapienza, 1993-1994.
  • S. G. Hopkins, Verlaine in song : how six composers of mélodie responded to the innovations of his verses, DMA, University of Maryland, 1996
  • K. Kim, A detailed study of Reynaldo Hahn's settings of the poetry of Paul Verlaine, DMA, University of Oklahoma, 1996
  • T. Hirsbrunner, "Genie und Talent : Marcel Proust und Reynaldo Hahn", in Von Richard Wagner bis Pierre Boulez : Essays, Anif, Salzburg 1997, 75-80 (= Wort und Musik, Salzburger Akademische Beiträge, 38)
  • P. F. Prestwich, The Translation of memories : recollections of the young Proust, London 1999
  • Philippe Blay. « Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947) ». Chroniques de Santa-Candie, 1999, no 54, p. 41-47.
  • Philippe Blay. L'Île du rêve de Reynaldo Hahn : contribution à l'étude de l'opéra français de l'époque fin-de-siècle. Villeneuve d'Ascq : Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 2000. 3 vol. (Thèse à la carte ; 29285). 2e éd. Lille : Atelier national de reproduction des thèses, 2003. 3 vol. (Thèse à la carte ; 29285). Thèse nouveau régime, musicologie, Tours, 1999.
  • Philippe Blay. « L’opéra de Loti : L’Île du rêve de Reynaldo Hahn ». « Supplément au Mariage de Loti », Bulletin de la Société des études océaniennes, avril-septembre 2000, nos 285-287, p. 40-72. Rééd. in Bulletin de l'Association Massenet, 2002, no 8, p. 25-44.
  • Philippe Blay. « Hahn, Reynaldo ». In Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart : allgemeine Enzyklopädie der Musik. Personenteil 8, Gri-Hil. Herausgegeben von Ludwig Finscher. Kassel ; Basel ; London ; New York ; Prag : Bärenreiter ; Stuttgart ; Weimar : Metzler, cop. 2002, col. 401-405.
  • Philippe Blay. « Le théâtre lyrique de Pierre Loti : André Messager, Lucien Lambert, Reynaldo Hahn ». In Le livret d'opéra au temps de Massenet : actes du colloque des 9-10 novembre 2001, Festival Massenet. Sous la dir. d'Alban Ramaut et Jean-Christophe Branger. Saint-Étienne : Publications de l'université de Saint-Étienne, 2002, p. 89-113. (Centre interdisciplinaire d'études et de recherches sur l'expression contemporaine ; travaux 108, musicologie. Cahiers de l'Esplanade ; no 1). Rééd. in Lettre d'information de l'Association pour la maison de Pierre Loti, mars 2003, no 7, p. 3-20.
  • Philippe Blay. « Chansons grises », « Hahn, Reynaldo », « Mélodies de Reynaldo Hahn ». In Dictionnaire de la musique en France au XIXe siècle. Sous la dir. de Joël-Marie Fauquet. Paris : Fayard, 2003. XVIII-1406 p.
  • Philippe Blay. « Musique de Proust, musique de Hahn : l'au-delà et l'en deçà ». Bulletin Marcel Proust, 2004, no 54, p. 87-100.
  • Philippe Blay. « Grand Siècle et Belle Époque : La Carmélite de Reynaldo Hahn ». In Aspects de l'opéra français de Meyerbeer à Honegger. Ouvrage coordonné par Jean-Christophe Branger et Vincent Giroud. Lyon : Symétrie, Palazzeto Bru Zane, cop. 2009, p. 153-170. (coll. « Perpetuum mobile »).
  • Philippe Blay, « Quand Mimi Pinson croise Ciboulette : Gustave Charpentier et Reynaldo Hahn », Gustave Charpentier et son temps, sous la direction de Michela Niccolai et Jean-Christophe Branger, collection Musique et musicologie, Saint-Étienne : Publications de l’université de Saint-Étienne, Centre interdisciplinaire d’études et de recherches sur l’expression contemporaine, 2013, p. 89-104.
  • Philippe Blay, « Du père au pair : Reynaldo Hahn et Jules Massenet », Massenet aujourd’hui : héritage et postérité : actes du colloque de la XIe biennale Massenet, sous la direction de Jean-Christophe Branger et Vincent Giroud, collection Musique et musicologie, Saint-Étienne : Publications de l’université de Saint-Étienne, Centre interdisciplinaire d’études et de recherches sur l’expression contemporaine, 2014, p. 339-369.
  • Reynaldo Hahn, un éclectique en musique, sous la direction de Philippe Blay, Arles : Actes Sud, Palazzetto Bru Zane, 2015, 504 p.
  • Philippe Blay, Jean-Christophe Branger, Luc Fraisse, Marcel Proust et Reynaldo Hahn : une création à quatre mains, avant-propos d’Eva de Vengohechea, Paris : Classiques Garnier, 2018, Bibliothèque proustienne, no 21.

External links

This page was last modified 27.06.2018 12:09:38

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