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August 9, 2012

A musical interlude: Reynaldo Hahn, Solomon

Not that you asked, but I have been absorbed with various work projects, some of them piled on top of each other now so I might take some time off in the days ahead.

All of this has me somewhat distracted from blogging -- although I have kept up with my globally beneficial Midweek Madness featurette -- not that anyone seems to have noticed lately. Come on, Der Bingle singing "Ob La Di" surrounded by go-go dancers and a marching band? How could you resist? Isn't that worth a comment or two? You're not going to find the likes of that on just any old blog, let me tell you.

Well, anyway, I have to get back to the grind, but I hated to leave you with nothing fresh today. So I did what I often do when pressed for time (and a topic) -- glance at my handy-dandy Boosey & Hawkes Music Diary and see if the date might yield any ideas, then rush to good old reliable YouTube. (Shameless, I know.)

Sure enough, two fascinating musicians happen to share an Aug. 9th birthday -- ...

Venezuelan-born French composer and journalist Reynaldo Hayn (1874-1947) and British pianist Solomon (1902-1988). They have nothing in common except that they both deserve to be a heckuva lot better known today.

I confess that I, too, needed to be reminded of Solomon, whose recordings I have not dug out in too long. He had tremendous artistic integrity to go with a solid technique. Like other keyboard giants of the past, he honored the music first and foremost, while still leaving his own imprint.

And I think it's cool that Solomon was a one-name artist long before the likes of Prince and Madonna got the idea. (His surname was Cutner, by the way.) It helped that the pianist looked so Solomon-like, with his classic profile -- that heroic nose, that firm chin, that balding pate.

A stroke cut short his career in 1956, but he made enough recordings before then to document his rare gifts. I've chosen a film clip of Solomon playing the finale of Beethoven's "Apassionata."

Hahn, who was involved with and inspired Proust, did not produce a large quantity of music. But there is a gem-like quality to his works -- effortlessly crafted melodies supported by the unfailingly elegant harmonies.

You can easily hear what I mean in these two eloquent songs, performed by soprano Ninon Vallin with the composer at the keyboard: "L'Heure exquise" (text by Verlaine) and "Tyndaris" (text by Leconte de Lisle).

 

Posted by Tim Smith at 9:48 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes
        

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at baltimoresun.com/artsmash. This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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