Tuesday, October 04, 2011

A Week of Songs

After roasting swans last week in our nation's capital, I get to spend this week singing songs of a different nature.  

Rehearsing Hahn at the Morgan (thanks to Helicon's Artistic Director, James Roe, for the pic)

Tonight, I perform with an incredible, slightly under-the-radar organization called Helicon in one of their few public performances in the group's history.  Helicon is a private chamber music society that meets four times a year for four different themed musical symposiums.  At these evenings, Helicon's subscribers get to experience programs and discussions of chamber music performed and discussed by phenomenal musicians who specialize in this repertoire.  I've performed with the organization a few times now, and their evenings are truly an extraordinary experience.  They are New York City's modern-day, musical salon

This evening's program at the Morgan Library (a unique opportunity for the general public to get to experience a taste of of what Helicon has to offer) focuses on the musical life surrounding Marcel Proust.  My contribution to tonight's concert will be an extended set of songs by Reynaldo Hahn, who was Proust's lover for an extended period. 

Reynaldo Hahn (August 9, 1874 – January 28, 1947)

A friend described Hahn's music as "cabaret music, in the style of French Art Song" the other night at dinner.  I must admit, considering Hahn wrote most of these songs for himself to sing while he accompanied himself at the piano with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, my friend's description is somewhat accurate.  But they are also so much more than that - Hahn was an incredibly complex musical thinker (he wrote extensively on the subject and was a noted musical critic in his day) and the poetry he was drawn to was incredibly sophisticated.  His songs are some of the most breathtakingly beautiful music I've ever performed.  I've noticed over the years that the most difficult music to master is the music that sounds the most simple.  Hahn was a master of simplicity, and each of these gems, while finely crafted and extremely detailed, come off as if they are effortless.  Here's just one example of the beauty he was capable of creating:

On Friday, Myra and I revisit the two familiar friends pictured below in recital in North Carolina.  You can read some of my ramblings about that program here and here...or (if you'll excuse the shameless plug) in the my liner notes for our latest album, which you can purchase here and here.

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