« Midweek Madness: Bing and the Beatles | Main | Micky Dolenz, Paul Vogt to head cast in Baltimore Symphony's concert version of 'Hairspray' »

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

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

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 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.
View the Artsmash blog

Baltimore Sun coverage
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop
Famous faces in classical music
Sign up for FREE entertainment alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for nightlife text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Weekend Watch newsletter
Plan your weekend with's best events, restaurant and movie reviews, TV picks and more delivered to you every Thursday for free.
See a sample | Sign up

Most Recent Comments
Stay connected