- GEORGE SAND ET A. DE MUSSET
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The elegant and lightweight companions of their later lives were to prove no match for either of them; the lack of intellectual stimulus in a loving relationship was to be keenly felt by both composer and writer. He became a noteworthy conductor Maggie Teyte averred that he was the greatest of all Mozartians and was willing to accompany the handful of singers he admired as correctly schooled his books on singing show a merciless impatience with anything but the highest technical accomplishment and he broadened his compositional thrust.
As there seemed to be less and less interest in his own serious music he turned to the world of operetta which has a timeless appeal and which turns the clock back with impunity. He was now spoken of in the same breath as Messager and Yvain, masters of operetta. He had some of his greatest successes in the twenties and thirties collaborating with famous names like Sacha Guitry and Yvonne Printemps, but nothing could bring back the times when great poets had likened him to a young Apollo.
Bit by bit he turned into a crusty old bachelor. Modern life seemed increasingly to fill him with bile; nothing could match the achievements and standards of his youth. Hahn had always loved travel and his journeys from country to country are documented in his diary. It is as if a certain melancholy in the composer made him prefer to be somewhere else in his mind. Just like his exact contemporary Fritz Kreisler, Hahn had a deft skill in evoking or suggesting different periods in musical history. The publisher Heugel told him that a provincial organist had written asking for information about the seventeenth-century composer Reynaldo Hahn of whom he had never heard.
Renowned for his charm and manners, the composer was paying a high personal price for his unruffled outward demeanour. Unlike Proust, Reynaldo had no great confessional novel with which to exorcise his feelings. Conservative by nature, it seems that it was far from easy for him to accept himself and his way of life—years later he was still secretive:. For him, life was never more exciting than during the glorious successes of his youthful years when his alluring charm was a passe-partout to every great house.
Of course he remained welcome and valued wherever he went, but the beautiful young men who were once to be found admiring the singers and courting the older ladies more assiduously than the younger were now themselves young enough to be his children; they went to jazz clubs and took opium.
With the passing of time and the decline in his looks Reynaldo was no longer the centre of a beau monde; society had so completely changed that a beau monde scarcely existed—at any rate not one within which he felt comfortable. In a far less creative way than Proust, Reynaldo became obsessed with the past and increasingly hostile to the new in music, painting and writing.
GEORGE SAND ET A. DE MUSSET
The ascendancy of Stravinsky in the years before the First World War, and Les Six soon afterwards, must have been anathema to him. Reynaldo was never truly to belong to the twentieth century: he cocooned himself in memories. The great successes in the world of operetta in the twenties and thirties made his name more of a household word than ever, but he was all too aware that as a composer he was functioning far from centre-stage.
He was too intelligent to confuse commercial success with the artistic respect given to great creators, an artistic respect that he had taken for granted, and so enjoyed, in his youth. Forced to leave Paris during the Nazi occupation because he was Jewish, he made a brief return to the public arena in when he was appointed the first director of the Paris Opera after the war.
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He died soon afterwards without being able to execute the reforms for which his supporters had hoped. One should not forget that the composer was renowned as an organiser of formidable intellect.
This might have been a grand new phase in his career. At times he wished he was more, and there are a number of bigger works where he almost convinces us that he deserves a greater appellation. But the qualities that he did have in plenty, where literary sensibility and elegant charm did not preclude deep feeling, seem rarer than ever in our own days this last phrase sounds an authentically conservative and Reynaldian note. Most of us are far too young to have memories of that Paris.
Europe is now homogenised and the banality of a tunnel removes the effort, and thus the magic, of the journey between the hitherto opposing worlds of the Anglo-Saxon and the Gaul. But who might be the composer of this music both elusive and allusive? Those who, at the turn of the century, like Proust hankered after the Second Empire and La Belle Epoque found the muse of Reynaldo an indispensable vade-mecum. Update Required To play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin.
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His mother was a Venezuelan Catholic. Hahn later wrote: I believe that when I was three, and about the same height as the piano stool, I already knew how to use my fingers on the keyboard. At five, I remember perfectly, I was playing for the pleasure of my family. At eight I was composing.
An Italian lady piano teacher had taught me to write music when I was very young. And as melodies were already singing in my young brain, I wrote them down, with that pride one has in fixing something lasting on to paper. Du do premier au final do Glissent les doigts de Reynaldo. Massenet was very good to me.
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He never lost a chance to introduce me to influential people, to speak to me of his friends—to invite me out—he was absolutely charming. He even sang one of my songs for my composition exam at the conservatoire and it was quite a success with the judges. Another older legend was Pauline Viardot, opera singer, daughter of Garcia, sister of Malibran, friend of Berlioz and mistress of Turgenev: In she comes, rather round-shouldered, very affable.
Her famous ugliness is toned down by age.
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