Le rossignol des lilas
is a rondel and might easily have been included in the Douze Rondels
had Hahn wanted to issue an updated edition (Treize Rondels
?) of that work in 1913. As in the settings of Banville (but to much less of an extent than in the settings of Charles d’Orléans) Hahn employs enough of the pasticheur’s art to suggest the elegance of a fifteenth-century poetic form at the same time as using the full resources of the piano to engender a romantic warmth. This song is one of Hahn’s loveliest creations—and most unusual in that the vocal line and the piano are welded together throughout (the one frequently doubling the other). The composer’s usual custom is to invent an accompanying figuration (often wherein lies the most interesting of the song’s tunes); once this is established the vocal lines are made to weave in and out of the piano’s texture often in the manner of speech. But here the plan is different: this is something like an aria, a real melody for the voice supported throughout, almost quaver for quaver, by the piano. The song has a middle section at ‘Nocturne ou matinal’ and a ravishing postlude derived from the main melody. The shape of the song shows beyond doubt Hahn’s experience in the world of operetta where the voice has to carry the main melody, which has to be instantly memorable.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1996