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First line:
Voici des fruits, des fleurs
author of text

Offrande is one of Hahn’s great mélodies; it stands as a proud alternative to the settings of Debussy (1888) and Fauré (1891), both of which use Verlaine’s original title Green. It is unlikely that Hahn knew either of those songs when he wrote his setting. A footnote to the edition states that the song is published with the permission of MM—who was the poet’s wife, Mathilde Mauté. This might have suggested that this song dates from 1896, the year of the Verlaine’s death (after which Mathilde would have exercised the droit moral over her late husband’s work) when the composer was twenty-two. In fact this authorisation refers only to the year of the song’s publication. The manuscript itself is dated ‘1891 in spring’, and the composer was only sixteen. The song is mysteriously dedicated ‘to ***’. However great the Fauré and Debussy songs are as pieces of music (more complex than Offrande by far), Hahn, despite his tender years, has profoundly understood the poem’s background: the melancholy and masochism inherent in Verlaine’s homosexual passion for Arthur Rimbaud. Debussy and Fauré, with the confidence of men destined to win fair ladies with ease, composed fast songs which offer baskets of fruit and bouquets of flowers with breathless delight. In Hahn’s empty accompaniment of listless minims, and a vocal line that is all but a monotone, we hear the helplessness of a man who knows that he will be treated unkindly by the object of his passion, who knows his offering will be scornfully rejected, and that nowhere will he find sympathy for his plight. Here is the state of depression which descends when love dares not speak its name. It is little wonder perhaps that, with the composer’s empathy for his words, Verlaine was said to have wept on hearing Hahn’s earlier settings of his poems, the Chansons grises.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1996


Hahn: Chansons grises & other songs
Hahn: Songs


Track 20 on CDH55040 [2'53]
Track 4 on CDA67141/2 CD1 [2'46] 2CDs

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