Hahn: La belle époque

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Hahn
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: La belle époque
PERFORMER: Susan Graham (mezzo-soprano)Roger Vignoles (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SK 60168

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Born in the wrong place (Venezuela) at the right time (1875), Reynaldo Hahn was transferred to Paris – which he quickly recognised as his spiritual home – at the age of three. By the turn of the century he was an ornament to the French capital’s social and musical life, and continued on until after the Second World War, as conductor, administrator, pianist, singer and composer.

This multi-talented figure left his mark on French operetta and the mélodie in particular, and if ultimately he is considered a minor master, he was a master nevertheless. This appealing collection includes his most famous songs (‘Si mes vers avaient des ailes’ – written when he was 13, and ‘L’heure exquise’), as well as 22 others, all immaculately crafted and finely imagined both for voice and piano, with the two conjoining in an effortless union.

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Susan Graham has the fullness and variety of tone to do these songs justice, and if her interpretations are a touch impersonal her French is good, though not especially characterful. The lower and middle registers of her voice are particularly fine, though it’s a well-integrated instrument overall, and she sings superbly in tune. Roger Vignoles is the measured and attentive accompanist. George Hall