> HAHN Sonata, Quintet [IL]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Reynaldo HAHN (1874-1947)
Sonata for Violin and Piano
Quintet for Strings and Piano
Denis Clavier (violin) Dimitris Saroglou (piano)
Quatuor Denis Clavier
Recorded in the Esplanade Hall, Metz in September 1997
MAGUELONE MAG 111.107 [63.27]


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This album is available separately or within a 3-CD boxed set, of Hahn works, released by Maguelone, that includes concertos for violin and piano (MAG 111.106 Ė already reviewed on this site) and songs (to be shortly reviewed on MAG 111.108).

Listening to Reynaldo Hahnís music is always an agreeable experience. It is usually predominantly sunny and light-hearted. Take the central movement of the Sonata for Violin and Piano for instance. It is whimsically subtitled: "12 CV; 8 cyl; 5,000 revs." It is a remarkably close evocation of a speeding motor car. It is demanding Ė rapid semiquavers throughout its 2í45" duration - but Clavier and Saroglou surmount its challenges with aplomb. They are also very sensitive to the music of the opening movement, delivering a spellbinding performance. Always tasteful, their playing avoids any hint of bathos or condescension that can so often destroy the fragility of Hahnís music. The music speaks of comfortable nostalgia and sweet sentimentality; a beguiling tenderness that is nevertheless tempered with wit and a steely edge. A hint of regret surfaces in a section that the author of the booklet notes, Jean Gallois, suggests, appropriately, is: "filled with reverie and moonlight". This movement has no formal structure, rather it develops freely presenting its two themes in various keys. The music is somewhat reminiscent of Franck. Its reverie spills over into the final movement although here the music climaxes darkly shaded and tormented.

The other main work in this delightful programme is the lovely Quintet for Strings and Piano. What gorgeous tunes! A jolly robust and determined first subject alternating with a tender dolce amorosa second. This is genial, playful music. Hahn is generous in his mellifluous melodies. Saraglou and the Quatuor Denis Clavier respond with nicely accented, spritely rhythmic, joyfully brio playing that makes Hahnís creation sound fresh and spontaneous. The central Andante begins with the cello and piano treading rather disconsolately, grieving. The viola joins in and the atmosphere lightens only slowly through a resigned but not too unhappy sort of nostalgic backward glance until the first violin joins in, after a dramatic peroration, some 60 bars into the movement. At this point there is a calmer atmosphere, yet with a mix of resignation and hopeless yearning. Clavierís players discover real beauty in its shadowy lyricism. The concluding movement, in contrast, is carefree and light-hearted, breezily romping away with a kind of rustic charm.

One might be tempted to think that Hahnís preponderantly agreeable, light-hearted music was created easily by this debonair dandy who charmed his hostesses in their Paris salons during the Belle Epoque. But the truth is in his own admission: "How I would love to write a ten-page piece in one day. Instead, it often takes me ten days to write one page!"

The two shorter pieces in the programme are equally enchanting. The sublime Romance for Violin and Piano is lilting salon music. The violin inclines towards tenderness at first but becomes increasingly animated. The Nocturne, again for Violin and Piano is Fauré-like especially in its lovely limpid piano figurations. It begins slightly melancholic but becomes more determined in its impassioned climax.

Beautifully melodic, here are riches in abundance for the unashamedly romantic. Impeccably played, this music deserves to be much better known.
Ian Lace


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