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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.

R E V I E W S:

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
Read more 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
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