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Les cygnes

First line:
Ton âme est un lac d'amour
author of text

Les Cygnes is vintage Hahn in his most expansive mood. It is dedicated to the poet Jean Lahor (Henri Cazalis) who provided Duparc with the texts of three songs—Chanson triste, Sérénade florentine and Extase. He also wrote the poems set by Saint-Saëns as Danse macabre. Saint-Saëns also had a connection with Armand Renaud, poet of Les Cygnes and now all but forgotten: Renaud provided Saint-Saëns with the texts of his song cycle Mélodies persanes. The success of this song (marked ‘calme et tres blanc’) is largely due to Hahn’s skill in inventing a limpid accompaniment suggestive of the ever-widening ripples to be seen on a large lake in the wake of the swans’ royal progress across the water. The very hands of the pianist seem to move with a type of breast-stroke movement in the playing of it. Above this gliding moto perpetuo the composer writes a vocal line of some nobility. If his actual melodic invention is not equal to that of some of the other masters of the mélodie, his deployment of his musical resources is extremely cunning. Note the way that touching modulations sometimes take the place of organic development or longer-breathed melodies. As always, Hahn is a master of placing a certain key word (normally at the end of the song as in the final ‘vous’ in Infidélité) on the most exquisite cushion as if it is to be presented to the public like a precious jewel. A wonderful example of this is the song’s final word: after the long phrase an octave lower which precedes it (‘Vois, comme ils en font le tour de ton …’), the word ‘âme’ seems suddenly to float star-like in the watery heavens.

from notes by Graham Johnson ©


Hahn: Songs


Track 8 on CDA67141/2 CD1 [4'04] 2CDs

Track-specific metadata for CDA67141/2 disc 1 track 8

Recording date
22 December 1995
Recording venue
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown & Arthur Johnson
Recording engineer
Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. Hahn: Songs (CDA67141/2)
    Disc 1 Track 8
    Release date: June 1996
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