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Hahn: Le Rossignol Eperdu / Yoonie Han

Release Date: 04/05/2019
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30108
Composer:  Reynaldo Hahn Performer:  Yoonie Han Number of Discs: 2

Given Reynaldo Hahn’s high profile with the patrons of Paris’s pre-war artist salons, it’s not surprising that his original works for piano include a good number of short character pieces that exude charm. His magnum opus in this genre, the "53 poèmes pour piano" collectively titled Le Rossignol éperdu is the early 20th Century’s answer to Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words.

Album Credits:
Recorded August, 2018 at Steinway Hall, New York City.
Producer: Jon Feidner
Engineer: Lauren Sclafani
Assistant Engineer: Melody Nieun Hwang
Editing: Kazumi Umeda
Mixing and Mastering: Daniel Shores

Executive Producers: Eric Feidner, Jon
Read more Feidner
Art Direction: Jackie Fugere
Design: Cover to Cover Design, Anilda Carrasquillo
Piano Technician: Lauren Sclafani
Piano: Steinway Model D #597590 (New York)

Reynaldo Hahn's 53 miniatures, collectively titled Le Rossignol Éperdu (The Distraught Nightingale), were written over several years, but the title and an overarching four-part structure suggest that the composer thought of them as a single work. Even though they're not technically challenging singly, they pose difficulties for the pianist attempting the whole set, as Yoonie Han does here; it's hard to keep them from collapsing into a shapeless, slightly chromatic mass. Han offers a precise reading of the group that is only seemingly dry. She carefully differentiates each line and each detail, and she brings out the differences among Hahn's four large sections: "Première Suite," "Orient," "Carnet de voyage," and "Versailles"; the pieces generally get simpler as the overall set proceeds. These are mysterious enough, and the titles of the individual works, mostly in French but sometimes in German or English, are more mysterious still. Hahn's pieces have been called (for instance, in the graphics) the early 20th century's answer to Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words, and indeed they seem to suggest the evocation of some unseen text. Sample "Éros caché dans les bois" (Eros hidden in the woods) for a random instance. In Han's hands they do even more. The pieces in the Première Suite, especially, seem to carry an uncanny quality of vocal discourse, of an actual text unfolding as the music develops. Steinway & Sons contributes fine sound from its own New York City auditorium. This is a strong, and perhaps definitive, reading of Hahn's cycle of miniatures.

-- AllMusic Guide

Nowadays, the Venezuelan-born, French composer Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947) is known primarily as a song composer. Yet he also wrote 17 operas, eight ballets, theatre music and film scores. His instrumental magnum opus is the 53 poèmes pour piano known collectively as Le rossignol éperdu (the title can be rendered variously as the ‘ecstatic’, ‘distracted’ or ‘baffled’ nightingale), composed between 1898 and 1910. The first 30 pieces were collated into a huge Première Suite playing for well over an hour, while Orient (nos 31-37), Carnet au voyage (nos 38-45) and Versailles (nos 46-53) are all much briefer. Claims that the collection constitutes a 20th-century equivalent of Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words are a little exaggerated, though Yoonie Han makes a fine case for them individually. There are a number of rival accounts, notably by Earl Wild (nla) and Billy Eidi (Timpani – slightly swifter overall), but this is competitive...

-- Guy Rickards, International Piano

Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947) is best known for his songs, but wrote a considerable amount of piano music. His magnus opus is the 53 poems for piano collectively titled The Bewildered (or Distraught) Nightingale, composed from 1899 to 1911. They are as short as 35 seconds, and the maximum length is 7:41, but most are between 2 and 4 minutes, just about the length of a song. There have been at least two integral recordings of this work before: Earl Wild (Ivory 72006, Mar/Apr 2002) and Cristina Ariagno (Concerto 2015, July/Aug 2013). Each of these pieces is inspired by a great poet: Verlaine, Molière, Flaubert, Voltaire, Baudelaire, Goethe, Musset, and Hugo. Le Rossignol Eperdu consists of four suites: 1. Premiere, 2. Orient, 3. Carnet de Voyage, and 4. Versailles. These miniatures are Hahn’s impressions, sketches, and thoughts on his travels. The music is played by Yoonie Han with the appropriate Belle Epoque elegance, She is quite effective in creating the intimate atmosphere they require. She is from South Korea but earned her degrees from Curtis, Juilliard, and SUNY Stony Brook. Her awards and competitions over a period of 15 years are quite impressive, as is her concert and teaching schedule. Steinway’s great piano sound captures all of the intimacy of Han’s exquisite playing of Hahn.

-- James Harrington, American Record Guide

Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947) was a Venezuelan-French composer who moved in the circles of Marcel Proust and Jean Cocteau. He is considered an important representative of the French belle époque, and is best known for his settings of the poems of Paul Verlaine and Stéphane Mallarmé. Less well known is his modest, lyrical piano music, which evokes associations with the early preludes of Aleksandr Skrjabin, but also with the accessible, pleasant melodies of Federico Mompou and Erik Satie. Le rossignol éperdu (1899-1911) is a collection of 53 short 'poems' for piano solo, which together span more than two hours and bear evocative titles such as 'Soleil d'automne' and 'La jeunesse et l'été'. In her performance of the complete collection, the South Korean pianist Yoonie Han calmly and carefully tastes the sounds, which she allows to interact beautifully with the silence. In addition, she uses the pedals sparingly, and she knows how to create a mysterious, dreamy atmosphere. Sometimes Hahn's sounds are modern, tactile and abstract, but most of Le rossignol éperdu's poems are light and melodious, sometimes even a bit coquettish, leaning towards the film music genre. It is the music that has sounded in the background in lavish Parisian salons, a world that briefly comes back to life through this double album.

-- Luister (Netherlands) Read less