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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDH55167
Recording details: January 1989
St Barnabas's Church, North Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Arthur Johnson
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: June 1989
Total duration: 16 minutes 35 seconds

'exquisitely done, with just the right feeling for the composer's insouciance and wit' (Gramophone)

'A scintillating recording debut … in admirably off-the-beaten-track repertory' (The Observer)

Le Bal de Béatrice d'Este
composer

Lesquercade  [3'38]
Romanesque  [3'08]
Ibérienne  [1'49]
Courante  [3'35]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Reynaldo Hahn’s Le Bal de Béatrice d’Este has no story attached to it. He wrote the piece in 1905 when he was thirty. (Or was he thirty-one then? A certain coquetry always made him claim to be one year younger than the age given on his birth certificate.) While still a boy at the Conservatoire he had composed his most famous song, the Mendelssohnian Si mes vers avaient des ailes, and he soon became a darling of the salons. There, a cigarette dangling from his lips, the ash drooping in a fine arc, he accompanied himself at the piano while he sang his own mélodies – that type of song as characteristically French as the Lied is German. With Marcel Proust, the great passion of his life, he wrote Portraits de peintres, a series of musical pieces intended as a background to the declamation of poems by Proust in honour of the artists they admired. It was Hahn who suggested to Proust the famous petite phrase which recurs symbolically throughout À la recherche du temps perdu and which is none other than a haunting theme from Saint-Saëns’s D minor violin sonata.

Hahn knew everyone in the beau monde as well as in English high society. A particular friend was the Duchess of Manchester at whose home he played during a reception once for King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. When the King had gone off for a game of bridge, the Queen begged Hahn and the orchestra to play again an earlier item she had very much enjoyed. This was Le Bal de Béatrice d’Este, a suite for wind instruments, two harps and piano. Typical of the composer’s liking for unusual combinations, it is dedicated to his old master Saint-Saëns and evokes an evening in the palazzo of an Italian noblewoman. The seven movements include dance measures with archaic titles, among them a ‘Lesquercade’, a ‘Courante’ and a ‘Romanesque’, all sweetly nostalgic and instilled with the atmosphere of a Milanese court that vanished three centuries ago. What, one wonders, was ‘Léda et l’oiseau’ doing among these innocent pastiches? Subtitled ‘Intermède Léonardesque’, it implies that the encounter between Leda and her bird must have been a more discreet affair than Leonardo seems to have suggested.

from notes by James Harding © 1989

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