The Composer Who Captured La Belle Époque
He counted among his friends the crème de la crème of turn-of-the-century Paris: Alphonse Daudet, Paul Verlaine, Stéphane Mallarmé, Sarah Bernhardt. Oh, and Marcel Proust, for whom he was lover and muse, the likely inspiration for the musician Vinteuil in the novel "À la recherche du temps perdu." A composer, conductor and writer, he also possessed a fine baritone voice preserved in a handful of recordings of his and other French composers' works. Actually, we need to qualify that slightly, for this native of Caracas (born there on the 9th of August, 1874), son of a German-Jewish father and Venezuelan mother of Basque origin, took French citizenship only in 1919. Best-known for his exquisite love songs (two of which come up just before 3:00 Friday afternoon on NEPR) and music theater (check out the charmingly archaic ballet Le bal de Béatrice d'Este late in the 10am hour) , he also composed a small body of instrumentals as precious as they are untimely, the best being the meltingly lovely 1931 Piano Concerto that we'll play late the 2:00 hour Friday afternoon. So if you'll just lend your ear, I guarantee you'll fall under the spell of the composer who best captured the sound of La Belle Époque, Reynaldo Hahn!
In the meantime, if you need a good swoon, here are Philippe Jaroussky, countertenor, and pianist Jérôme Ducros with Hahn's "À Chloris." WARNING: You may feel while listening as if the world had turned into a Renoir painting. And you may not want it to turn back.