Reynaldo Hahn

Reynaldo Hahn

French composer, pianist, music critic, conductor and orchestra leader
Date of Birth: 09.08.1874
Country: France

  1. Reynaldo An: A Biography
  2. Early Life and Education
  3. Friendships and Accomplishments
  4. Later Years and Legacy

Reynaldo An: A Biography

Reynaldo An, a French composer, pianist, music critic, conductor, and orchestra leader, was one of the most renowned musicians of the belle époque. He was born to a German-Jewish father and a Venezuelan mother. His father, originally from Hamburg, came to Venezuela in search of fortune and became a close friend of President Antonio Guzmán Blanco. However, due to threats from the president's enemies, the family moved to Paris in 1878.

Early Life and Education

Reynaldo An wrote his first waltz for piano in 1883. He studied at the Paris Conservatory under the guidance of renowned composers such as Gounod, Saint-Saëns, and Jules Massenet. His classmates included Maurice Ravel and Emmanuel Chabrier. In 1888, An composed a romance based on Victor Hugo's poems, which quickly gained popularity.

Friendships and Accomplishments

An befriended the Daudet family, including Alphonse Daudet and his wife Julia, as well as the poet Paul Verlaine. He composed a song cycle titled "Tipsy Songs" based on Verlaine's poetry. His vocal compositions became fashionable, and he became a regular attendee of the best salons in Paris, where he performed his own songs as well as music by other composers. During this time, he also became acquainted with Stéphane Mallarmé, Edmond de Goncourt, Marcel Proust, and Sarah Bernhardt (whom he later wrote a book about in 1930).

From 1894 to 1896, An had a close relationship with Marcel Proust. They traveled together, made plans, and corresponded extensively (their correspondence was later published). Many details from this period found their way into Proust's novel "Jean Santeuil." An was also friends with Liane de Pougy and Cléo de Mérode. Alongside Proust and Sarah Bernhardt, he advocated for the innocence of Alfred Dreyfus during the Dreyfus Affair.

Later Years and Legacy

During World War I, An volunteered for the front and later served at the Ministry of Defense. He composed music for the stage and film, as well as symphonies, piano compositions, and vocal works based on the poetry of Lecomte de Lisle, Jean Moréas, Henri de Régnier, R. L. Stevenson, and others. He also created several ballets, operas, and operettas, collaborating with Serge Diaghilev and his troupe.

Starting in 1920, An taught at the Ecole Normale de Musique and maintained friendships with Pablo Casals, Jacques Thibaud, and Nadia Boulanger. He also collaborated with Sasha Guitry, Arletty, and Magda Tagliaferro. During World War II, fearing Nazi anti-Semitism, An left Paris and lived in Cannes and Monte Carlo. He returned to the capital in 1945 and was elected to the Academy of Fine Arts, where he became the head of the Paris Opera. He was honored as an Officer and Commander of the Order of the Legion of Honor. Among modern performers of An's compositions are Felicity Lott, Ian Bostridge, and Elena Obraztsova.