Every once in awhile, I like to throw a curve ball and write a blog post that no one will be interested in except myself.
It's May. Spring is in the air (along with pollen, allergies, bees, wasps, and assorted horrifying Tennessee mountain bugs that I've never before heard of). Despite all of the unexpected annoyances of mountain living, the weather is gorgeous. My rustic surroundings are inspiring. I'm in an acutely romantic mood. And I'll make a confession:
I've been spending my nights with Reynaldo.
My readers are gasping in horror, blessing themselves with signs of the cross, and expunging me from their "friends" lists.
I've been in love with Reynaldo ever since I was a music student in Los Angeles. We seem to have lost touch through the years, but have finally been recently reacquainted - thanks to YouTube.
I'm talking about the extraordinary but sorely neglected French composer Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947). He was actually born in Venezuela but his family moved to Paris when he was three years old.
As a composer, Hahn's style and influence is exclusively French. He was a child prodigy and studied with the French masters: Massenet, Gounod, and Saint-Saens. Hahn composed an extraordinary amount of music - including operas, ballets, symphonies, and concertos. He was also a singer, conductor, music critic, and diarist. Today, he seems to be mostly remembered for his charming songs for voice and piano.
Reynaldo Hahn was extremely popular during his career and was the darling of the Belle Epoque drawing rooms (I won't mention the fact that he and Marcel Proust were lovers).
I've chosen two of my favorite songs by Hahn - both of which are highly romantic and depict moonlit nights.
La Barcheta (The Little Boat) was written in 1901 and is from a series of six Italian-style songs, entitled Venezia (Chansons en Dialecte Venitien)
It depicts a romantic ride on a gondola in the moonlight.
It is sung by the delightful Italian bass Giovanni Furlanetto.
Actually, he sings two songs by Reynaldo Hahn: La Barcheta (The Little Boat) and Che Peca (What a Shame)
L'Heure Exquise (The Exuisite Hour) was written in 1893 when Hahn was only nineteen.
It is based on the poem La Lune Blanche by Paul Verlaine, which depicts a moonlit night by a lake.
It is sung by the American bass Jason Hardy.
(the video has English subtitles)
And for those of you who are still awake and paying attention, I have an extreme rarity.
This is a ancient gramophone recording of Reynaldo Hahn actually singing La Barcheta and accompanying himself on the piano. It was recorded in 1909, when he was 35.
Over 115 years ago!!!!!!
The audio quality is really horrible and it seems much too fast, but what can you expect from a recording so old?
Since Hahn was a tenor, he sings La Barcheta in a slightly higher register than Furlanetto does.