The second Recueil
opens, like the first, with a setting of Victor Hugo. Quand la nuit n’est pas étoilée
is an earlier work than many other songs in this collection. Its low tessitura suggests the laconic crooning style of the composer himself (at least in the opening pages) and Hahn has invented a marvellous accompanying pattern with triplets in the right hand and duplets in the left which suggests the gentle tug of sea currents. Hugo’s poem is immense in its imagery and this rhapsodic setting rises to the challenge. The vocal line is more melodically memorable in its own right than many a Hahn song of this type. There is a real sense of inevitable recapitulation just before ‘Toi, demande au monde nocturne’ with the return of one of the composer’s best tunes. The most typical of Reynaldo’s songs are more intimate than this, but as in Les Étoiles
he takes his brush to a larger canvas and succeeds.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1996