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As one can tell by his gallant courting of old divas, women adored him, and there was one, three years older than him, who was according to him his ideal. He loved her at a distance all his life. The other woman friend of Hahn was more colourful—none other than the grande horizontale Liane de Pougy, celebrated beauty and courtesan. She was once discovered in flagrante delicto by one of her husbands—a soldier—and he shot her in each buttock in revenge. It is certain that Reynaldo never even glimpsed these wounds of love.
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My Reynaldo, you are quite right, I was your momentary distraction, you are the passer-by and nothing more. He was highly strung and snobbish this Marcel Proust, and people doubted whether he would ever do anything worthwhile with his life. They collaborated on a work for reciter and piano about painters, they went on holiday together in Brittany and to Venice where the composer wrote his enchanting Venezia cycle recorded by Anthony Rolfe Johnson on Hyperion CDH During this period Hahn developed his own literary skills. He was to become, and remain, one of the best of all writers about music and musicians, particularly in the field of vocal studies.
Novels set in the 1920s
Actors and singers fascinated him, although he always preferred to be in touch with celebrated names from the past and was highly critical of his contemporaries. Sarah Bernhardt was at first his idol he was taken to see her act when he was six or seven and he became her friend and wrote a book about her. Another older legend was Pauline Viardot, opera singer, daughter of Garcia, sister of Malibran, friend of Berlioz and mistress of Turgenev:. From to Proust wrote Jean Santeuil , an autobiographical novel in which Hahn figures as the eponymous hero. Those idyllic two years were perhaps the only time that either artist had a relationship with a real equal.
Proust left Reynaldo for the next young man, Lucien Daudet, but as the writer shook off his dilettante way of life and worked obsessively on his great novel, Hahn remained a friend.
The elegant and lightweight companions of their later lives were to prove no match for either of them; the lack of intellectual stimulus in a loving relationship was to be keenly felt by both composer and writer. He became a noteworthy conductor Maggie Teyte averred that he was the greatest of all Mozartians and was willing to accompany the handful of singers he admired as correctly schooled his books on singing show a merciless impatience with anything but the highest technical accomplishment and he broadened his compositional thrust.
As there seemed to be less and less interest in his own serious music he turned to the world of operetta which has a timeless appeal and which turns the clock back with impunity.
He was now spoken of in the same breath as Messager and Yvain, masters of operetta. He had some of his greatest successes in the twenties and thirties collaborating with famous names like Sacha Guitry and Yvonne Printemps, but nothing could bring back the times when great poets had likened him to a young Apollo. Bit by bit he turned into a crusty old bachelor. Modern life seemed increasingly to fill him with bile; nothing could match the achievements and standards of his youth.
Hahn had always loved travel and his journeys from country to country are documented in his diary. It is as if a certain melancholy in the composer made him prefer to be somewhere else in his mind. Just like his exact contemporary Fritz Kreisler, Hahn had a deft skill in evoking or suggesting different periods in musical history. The publisher Heugel told him that a provincial organist had written asking for information about the seventeenth-century composer Reynaldo Hahn of whom he had never heard.
Renowned for his charm and manners, the composer was paying a high personal price for his unruffled outward demeanour. Unlike Proust, Reynaldo had no great confessional novel with which to exorcise his feelings.
Conservative by nature, it seems that it was far from easy for him to accept himself and his way of life—years later he was still secretive:. For him, life was never more exciting than during the glorious successes of his youthful years when his alluring charm was a passe-partout to every great house.
Of course he remained welcome and valued wherever he went, but the beautiful young men who were once to be found admiring the singers and courting the older ladies more assiduously than the younger were now themselves young enough to be his children; they went to jazz clubs and took opium. With the passing of time and the decline in his looks Reynaldo was no longer the centre of a beau monde; society had so completely changed that a beau monde scarcely existed—at any rate not one within which he felt comfortable.
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