Venezuelan-born Reynaldo Hahn (1875-1947) was taken to Paris at age 3 and became, early enough (his most famous song, Si mes vers avaient des ailes, was composed when he was 12!) a steady feature in the musical life of Paris.
Lover of Marcel Proust, sought-after musical entertainer in the salons of the Highest Society, diarist, composer, singer, renowned conductor, influential music writer in the most powerful daily in France (Le Figaro) finally General Manager of the Opéra Comique before dying of a brain tumor in 1947, Hahn was a multi-faceted musician of the highest probity. His songs are simple, patrician, utterly elegant, and always set to the best poetry. His simplicity and purity of means accomplish in little what many pretentious thunderers fail even to approximate. He was a minor master.
Hahn had a light little baritone voice, a little croak of a voice, really, with which he made himself enourmously popular in high society drawing rooms before the First World War: the voice that charmed duchesses and made the most reserved princesses smile! He even made some 50 records between 1920 and 1930, which show his unique, expressive musicality, unfailing sense of phrasing, unpretentious elegance of style, and fine piano-playing (He almost invariably accompanies himself.)
Hahn's own 78s, and a very few others by the likes of Ninon Vallin, give a clear recorded testimony of how his songs ought to be performed: simply, sincerely, with charm.
Charm is not in oversupply in this Hyperion collection (the singers are rather wooden English people with somewhat grey voices) but the other qualities are honestly, conscientiously supplied. Many of these pieces are not easily come by, especially in such well-recorded, well-accompanied perfomances, and though Hahn might perhaps have smiled to hear such a straight-laced presentation of his little creations, this album is really quite worth the asking price.