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Hahn: Works for Piano Solo / Cristina Ariagno

Hahn / Ariagno
Release Date: 02/26/2013 
Label:  Concerto   Catalog #: 2015   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno
Number of Discs: 5 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

"While Hahn’s music for solo piano has had advocates, Earl Wild among them, it has never become as popular as his vocal works, let alone part of the standard repertory. It would be wonderful if Cristina Ariagno’s four-disc survey (which includes a DVD with a documentary about Hahn) could help change that. It is more complete than any previous set, and Ms. Ariagno’s lucid performances manage the balances between nostalgia and experimentation, feeling and restraint, that are at the heart of Hahn’s aesthetic." – Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times [5/5/2013] 3661680.az_HAHN_Le_Rossignol_L.html

HAHN Read more Le Rossignol éperdu. L’Inspiration. Juvénilia. Au Clair de lune. Portraits de peintres. Premières valses. Sonatina. Les Impressions: Tristesse; Regrets; ***très simple. Pièces d’amour: A un mouchoir; Grands yeux; Mens divinior; ***avec élégance. Notturno alla italiana. Good-bye. Contour mélodique improvisé en voiture ouverte. Chanson rêveuse de l’héliotrope. Valse de la libellule en deuil. D’une Prison. Avant l’hommage des poètes. Pavane d’Angelo. Theme varié sur le nom de Haydn. Bacchante endormie. La création du monde & Cristina Ariagno (pn) CONCERTO BOX 2015 (4 CDs: 261:30 + DVD: 56:32)


& Le Piano de Reynaldo Hahn: A Documentary Film by Jean-Christophe Étienne


As a composer, the multitalented Reynaldo Hahn is best known these days for his songs and operettas; but especially in his early years, he wrote a fair amount of solo piano music. This keyboard output is not easy to describe: Even though the young Reynaldo was very much of a favorite in the homes of rich Parisians, it’s not quite “salon music” in the conventional derogatory sense of the word. It’s neither flashy nor superficial in the Henri Herz tradition—and although it wouldn’t interrupt any conversations among the dinner guests, at its best it’s far from easy listening. At the same time, it’s not music that can easily fill a good-sized concert hall: It requires an intimate setting if it is to come across.


On the whole, a kind of esthetic minimalism reigns here, as Hahn takes moderation to an extreme. The music is generally quiet (you can search page after page looking for anything above a mezzo forte), tempos sink toward the slow end of the spectrum, textures are on the thin side (especially when compared to those of such contemporaries as Godowsky and Busoni), expression marks do not clutter the page. When he evokes the past (as in the neorenaissance “Noces,” from Rossignol or the neobaroque Sonatina), he offers affectionate pastiches rather than serious challenges to romantic sensibilities. The emotions tend to be restrained, too: Regret is more common than despair, sunshine more common than ecstasy. Despite many titles that might seem to summon up Rossini, Alkan, or Satie, he’s not especially whimsical, either. “Fausse indifference” (False indifference) is the kind of sentiment that draws the best from him.


This restraint carries over to virtually all the parameters of this repertoire. Hahn can introduce some unusual harmonies (try Juvénilia’s “Demi-sommeil,” written while he was still a teenager); but even at their most adventurous (“Bacchante endormie” seems to be pushing beyond tonality), they appear as subtle perfumes rather than as shocks to the system. You may be momentarily puzzled, even mildly disoriented; but you’re never wrenched as you can be in the early music of Schoenberg. Similarly, Hahn’s occasional rhythmic experiments (say, the brief interplay between groupings of three, four, five, and seven in “Le Bouquet de Pensées,” from Le Rossignol éperdu) flow by so smoothly that you may not notice them if you’re not on high alert. At moments, Hahn’s gestural repetition may bring late Liszt to mind (check out “Les Chiens de Galata,” from Rossignol)­­—but there’s none of Liszt’s expressionistic edginess. Although the music isn’t exactly easy, it rarely calls for a virtuosic technique—and never gives the pianist a chance to show off


Most important, nothing is really developed. It’s not simply that the pieces tend to be short; beyond that, they are largely uneventful. Their expressive mode is lyric rather than narrative, static rather than progressive. Even as a late teenager (say, in “Good-bye” or “Les Impressions”), he was a remarkably refined composer, one who put the stress on elegance, polish, and detail rather than on largescale architecture. Certainly, there’s nothing on these four discs with the sense of trajectory of his Violin Sonata. Rather, in his piano music, Hahn specializes in the fleeting evocation of mood: Valse de la libellule en deuil (Waltz of the Dragonfly in Mourning) lasts less than 30 seconds, but like nearly everything else here, it creates a distinct musical flavor.


In sum, this is rarified material—and this is a doubly rarified set, since it not only brings together his most important collections (including the two-hour Rossignol éperdu), but also offers more than a full disc’s worth of mostly early works that have, according to the booklet, never been recorded before. A few are bottom-of-the-barrel trifles (L’Inspiration, a slightly wooden waltz written before he was even a teen, hardly suggests the quality of the works to come; D’Une prison is a surprisingly wooden transcription of his famous song). But most show that indefinable Hahn stamp: I was especially taken with the harmonic eloquence of “Les regards amoureux” from Juvénilia and the stern nobility of Pavane d’Angelo.


Those who take the plunge will be rewarded with softly contoured, generally idiomatic performances by Cristina Ariagno, who has made something of a specialty of belle époque piano music. Yes, many of the performances are on the slow side; there are moments when her pedaling muddies the music; and her dynamics aren’t always sufficiently nuanced. Nor does she have the power for the uncharacteristically fff ending of the second number in Au Clair de lune. Still, these soft-spoken readings are tonally alluring, supple in their rubato, sensitive to the music’s harmonic fragrances, and vertically well balanced (listen to the bell effects in the middle movement of the Sonatina)—and they generally catch the spirit of the piece at hand. I suppose you’d have to be seriously interested in Hahn to want to opt for such a large collection rather than, say, Earl Wild’s exquisite account of Rossignol or Laure Favre-Kahn’s more forthright single disc of Hahniana. But admirers of the composer—or of the period more generally—should find this Concerto set well worth their attention.


I do wish the program notes were more detailed—and that we were provided with the all-important texts and pictures for Au Clair de lune (which is a set of musical illustrations of a simple story by Louis Montégut) and Portraits de peintres (inspired by adolescent poems by the not-yet-great Marcel Proust). But the sound is good and the documentary film, if over-adulatory, offers some fine old family photos. Recommended for the happy few.


FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz
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Works on This Recording

1.
Le rossignol éperdu by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1902-1910; France 
2.
Notturno alla italiana by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1891 
3.
Good bye! by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1891 
4.
L'inspiration by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
5.
Contour mélodique by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1891 
6.
Pièces d'amour by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
7.
Chanson reveuse de l'heliotrope by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
8.
Valse de la libellue en deuil by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
9.
L'inspiration by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
10.
Juvénilia by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
11.
Au clair de lune by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
12.
Mélodies (20), Volume 1: D'une prison by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1892; France 
13.
Avant l'hommage des poetes by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
14.
Pavane d' Angelo by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905 
15.
Portraits de peintres by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1894; France 
16.
Premières valses by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1897 
17.
Sonatina for Piano in C major by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1907; France 
18.
Theme and variations on the name of Haydn, in C major by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1909 
19.
Bacchante by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905 
20.
La Création du Monde by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Cristina Ariagno (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912 

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