Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947)

By Hervé Roten

Born in Caracas of a Catholic Venezuelan mother and a Jewish German father, Reynaldo Hahn is the yougest child in a family of nine children, who settled in Paris in 1878. At the age of 11, Reynaldo Hahn enters the Paris Music Conservatory where he becomes the student of Albert Lavignac and Jules Massenet for composition. At the age of 13, he writes already a famous melody « Si mes vers avaient des ailes » on a poem by Victor Hugo.

In the 1890’s, he visits regularly the Parisian salons (in particular the Halphen’s) where he sings his melodies and plays the piano. He meets celebrities such as Stéphane Mallarmé, Edmond de Goncourt or Marcel Proust who becomes his lover until 1896.

In 1914, on his request, he is sent on the front until 1916 and works then in the ministry of war. This won’t stop him to write music. He receives the Légion d’honneur in 1924.

Appointed singing teacher at the École normale de musique de Paris in 1920, Reynaldo Hahn works with Pablo Casals, Jacques Thibaud and Nadia Boulanger. During that period between the two world wars, he writes many operettas and musical comedies. But along to this mainstream music, he also comes back to a musical genre that he left behind, chamber music, with the piano quintet (1921), the sonata for violin and piano (1927) and two string quartets (1939).
Worried because of his Jewish origins, he leaves Paris in 1940 for Cannes and then Monte-Carlo. In 1945, back in Paris, he is elected member of the Academy of fine arts and becomes director of the Opera de Paris. Affected by a brain tumor, he dies in Paris on January 28th 1947. He is buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetary.

Order the sheet music Petit nocturne for violin and piano (EIJM’s publications)

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