The pairing of Francis Poulenc and Reynaldo Hahn on this album may seem contrived merely because of biographical parallels between the two men, for their musical approaches and styles are quite different, if not at odds. Poulenc's neo-Classical, self-conscious parodies in the Sinfonietta and the dry, sarcastic wit of the Aubade are a world away from Hahn's pretty, even precious, Romanticism, which is unabashedly on display in La bal de Béatrice d'Este. However, the discerning listener may find in Poulenc streaks of Hahn's pensiveness and languor, which his comic antics never completely conceal; there is in Hahn a buoyant, diatonic tunefulness that is readily found in Poulenc. (Interestingly, some of Poulenc's adaptations of Renaissance music bear a remarkable similarity to Hahn's antique pastiches in this ballet.) Furthermore, their fondness for unusual chamber combinations is striking, and the transition from the Aubade to La bal de Béatrice d'Este is not at all jarring because they both share the charm and ambience of the salon orchestra.
Ms Yakar is not only a specialist in French melodies (and a native speaker of French), but is also well known as a baroque specialist. This combination of specialities often produces very fine approaches to interpretation - one sees it in the singing of Sandrine Piau, Veronique Gens, Patricia Petibon, etc. And in the singing of Rachel Yakar, the effect is marvellous - a wonderful sense of intimacy and that indefinable quality one can only call "charm". I doubt that this elusive quality can be taught - I have never yet heard a singer develop it from nothing……….Merveilleux, Mme Yakar! This is a thought-provoking and beautiful recording worth the possessing.Ingrid Heyn @ Amazon.com
For his entire life, Reynaldo Hahn was labeled as a composer of salon music, a lightweight, whose compositions were written to satisfy the academic tastes of social circles in the Belle Époque and during the period between the two wars. Luckily however, in recent years, a handful of performers and publishers have allowed us to discover the incredible diversity of his eclectic and enchanting work. While not widely known, his piano music is in fact one of the most original aspects of his talent. The outstanding recordings presented in this boxed set of four CDs should help in banishing those long held prejudices.