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Douze Rondels


Like many another composer of conservative leanings, Hahn was fascinated by the past and the strict rules that governed the art of former times. In this set of twelve songs he was able to enter into the spirit of the literary discipline which governs the making of the rondel. This is a thirteen-line poem consisting of two quatrains and one cinquain. There are only two rhymes permitted, and there are three appearances of a fixed refrain: at the beginning, middle and end of the poem. The rhyme scheme is as follows (the capital letters indicate refrains which almost always incorporate the title of the poem itself): A B b a  a b A B  a b b a A.

The composer had the idea of juxtaposing Banville’s latter-day rondels with three of Charles d’Orléans originals (the second, sixth and eighth songs of the cycle). At the end there is a rondel by Catulle Mendès which, with its reference to singing, may well have been written as a closing item for this cycle at Reynaldo’s request. Hahn’s lavish musical plan included the use of a chorus in the first, sixth and eleventh items; this makes modern-day performance of the work on the concert platform expensive and unlikely. The musical style of the Banville settings is more or less in the ‘modern’ style of the composer’s second Recueil of mélodies (some of the piano parts are as difficult as anything he wrote for the instrument) while in contrast the Charles d’Orléans settings bring out Hahn’s gifts as a pasticheur. There had been a long tradition in the composers of mélodie (Gounod and Fauré were the greatest, but by no means the only examples) of matching early poetry with music in ‘madrigal’ style evocative of earlier times. The use of this time-travelling in film music has rather debased the coin (despite Walton’s splendid music for Olivier’s Henry V) and after hearing ‘early’ music churned out by the yard in costume dramas, listeners no longer regard pastiche as serious composition. It was, however, something on which Reynaldo was increasingly to rely for the visitations of his muse. In any case, at the turn of the century even a giant like Debussy (in his Villon ballads and his own settings of Charles d’Orléans) was not above the use of archaic colour in his songs to suggest the fifteenth-century provenance of the words. Ravel too had an early success with his Pavane pour une infante défunte.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1996


Hahn: Songs
Hahn: Chansons grises & other songs


No 01: Le jour  Tout est ravi quand vient le Jour
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Track 15 on CDA67141/2 CD1 [3'42] 2CDs
No 02: Je me metz en vostre mercy
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Track 16 on CDA67141/2 CD1 [1'26] 2CDs
No 03: Le printemps  Te voilà, rire du printemps!
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Track 17 on CDA67141/2 CD1 [1'37] 2CDs
No 04: L'air  Dans l'air s'en vont les ailes
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Track 18 on CDA67141/2 CD1 [3'19] 2CDs
Track 5 on CDH55040 [3'07]
No 05: La paix
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Track 19 on CDA67141/2 CD1 [2'11] 2CDs
No 06: Gardez le trait de la fenêtre
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Track 20 on CDA67141/2 CD1 [1'37] 2CDs
No 07: La pêche  Le pêcheur vidant ses filets
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Track 21 on CDA67141/2 CD1 [1'59] 2CDs
No 08: Quand je fus pris au pavillon
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Track 22 on CDA67141/2 CD1 [1'13] 2CDs
Track 6 on CDH55040 [1'05]
No 09: Les étoiles  Les cieux resplendissants d'étoiles
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Track 23 on CDA67141/2 CD1 [3'00] 2CDs
Track 7 on CDH55040 [2'48]
No 10: L'automne  Sois le bienvenue, rouge automne
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Track 24 on CDA67141/2 CD1 [1'52] 2CDs
Track 8 on CDH55040 [1'20]
No 11: La nuit  Nous bénissons la douce nuit
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Track 25 on CDA67141/2 CD1 [2'41] 2CDs
No 12: Le souvenir d'avoir chanté
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Track 26 on CDA67141/2 CD1 [1'56] 2CDs

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