Hahn: Le rossignol éperdu

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COMPOSERS: Hahn
LABELS: Ivory 72006
WORKS: Le rossignol éperdu
PERFORMER: Earl Wild (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: (distr. +1614 761 8709; www.ivoryclassics.com)
Reynaldo Hahn, friend of Proust, is perhaps the epitome of the artistic creator the French classify as ‘petit maître’. But in recent years he has been brought out of the author’s shadow, with each new rediscovery offered us by the record companies – not just the theatre works and songs on which his reputation was formerly based – prompting, I think, the same demand for re-evaluation: that in Hahn’s case the ‘master’ needs vigorous stressing over the ‘small’.

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These piano ‘poems’ underline the point. Short piano watercolours collected under the title The Distracted Nightingale and published in 1912, they were inspired mostly by poetry and travel; in them Hahn sums up a mood, a visual impression, a flight of fantasy with mastery at once astonishing and deceptive – mild and gentle on the surface, full of subtle shadings (and musical sophistication) beneath. The six devoted to the Orient, with their exotic reflections of Debussy and Satie, are perhaps the most remarkable, but not one of the 53 fails to give delight.

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This is the suite’s first complete recording. At 85 Earl Wild’s own mastery seems intact: in spite of the slightly airless recording his old-gold tones, quietly eloquent phrase-shapings and absolute rhythmic control are displayed to admiration. Highly recommended. Max Loppert