Trois jours de vendange
is one of the few songs by Hahn which tells a story; it does so in three clear stages, as the title makes plain. It was no doubt composed as a tribute to its poet, Alphonse Daudet, who had been so kind both to Hahn and to Proust. The merry acciaccaturas and staccato chords are as near as Reynaldo ever got to painting merry country life in his mélodies. The effect of heartiness is of course set up to be knocked down in the final verse where the beautiful girl, stricken by illness in the second verse, dies and is buried. The whole song seems to owe something to the narrative ballads of Saint-Saëns, in particular Le pas d’armes du roi Jean
which also seeks to unify a varied story in different sections within a larger musical structure. The last page with its tolling bells and monotone incantations seems to have something in common with the spellbinding coda of Debussy’s De soir
) which also has bare octaves accompanying a vocal line similarly suggestive of medieval church ritual. Debussy’s modernity was largely inimical to Hahn and it seems curious that the Proses Lyriques
were exactly contemporary with the publication of Reynaldo’s first Recueil
. It must be remembered, however, that some of the Hahn songs had been written up to eight years earlier.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1996