Reynaldo Hahn: L’Heure Exquise
April 9, 2014 2 Comments
This is day eight of the A-toZ Challenge in which I attempt to blog every day (excepting Sundays) during the month of April. During this month, I am curating a collection of “classical” music pieces, which are lesser known or by lesser known composers.
Today’s composer is Reynaldo Hahn who lived from 1874 to 1947.
Hahn was born in Caracas, Venezuela to German-Jewish parents, who moved to Paris because of political strife when Reynaldo was three. The boy was a child prodigy and entered the Paris Conservatory despite their stand against child prodigies. According to Wikipedia his teachers there included “Jules Massenet, Charles Gounod, Camille Saint-Saëns and Émile Descombes. Alfred Cortot and Maurice Ravel were fellow students.”
Even more importantly, he was accepted into the rich cultural life of Parisian poets, writers and musician in what must have been the one of the most fertile artistic time periods in French if not European history. He set the poems of Paul Verlaine to music, and according to Mallarme, the compositions reduced Verlaine to tears with their beauty.
Hahn was a closeted homosexual who publicly denounced homosexuality. Then he met Marcel Proust, 3 years his senior, and they became lovers. They remained friends until Proust died, and Proust wrote an unfinished autobiographical novel, Jean Santeuil, which is about their relationship.
He was director of the Cannes Casino Opera house and then later music critic for Le Figaro newspaper. He had to flee Paris in 1940 but returned after the war and became director of the Paris Opera house.