August 6, 2012. Mid-August birthdays: Reynaldo Hahn, Alexander Glazunov, Maurice Greene. These days Reynaldo Hahn is probably better known as Marcel Proust’s lover and friend rather than a composer, but in the 1890s his songs were very popular. Hahn was born in Venezuela on August 9, 1874, his family moved to Paris when he was three. He started composing when he was eight. At the age of ten he entered the Paris Conservatory where he studied with Massenet, Gounod, and Saint-Saëns. He was accepted into the popular salons of Paris when he was still in his late teens. It was in one of these salons that in 1894 he met Marcel Proust, then just an aspiring writer. Even though their affair was brief, they remind very good friends till Proust’s death in 1922. Here is a song Si mes vers avaient des ailes (If my verses had wings) on a poem by Victor Hugo by the 14 year-old Hahn, which immediately became very popular. It’s sung by the soprano Rebecca Wascoe, Jeffrey Peterson is on the piano.
Like Hahn, Glazunov was more popular during his own lifetime than he is today. Glazunov’s life spanned several eras: imperial Russia, the Soviet Union, and exile in France. Glazunov was born on August 10, 1865 into a wealthy family in Saint Petersburg. He began composing very early, was noticed by Balakirev, who in turn introduced his work to Rimsky-Korsakov. Rimsky took Glazunov under his wing, tutoring him in composition and in 1882 even premiering his 1st symphony (Glazunov composed eight symphonies altogether). In 1898 he wrote a still-popular ballet Raymonda, and in 1904 – a violin concerto (which Jascha Heifetz played throughout his career). In 1905 Glazunov was appointed the director of the Saint Petersburg conservatory. He stayed in this position through the 1917 October Revolution and then another eleven years. Dmitry Shostakovich was one of his students. In the later years he became an alcoholic, and apparently even taught lessons while drunk. Nonetheless, his prestige was such that he stayed in charge of the Conservatory. But in 1928 Glazunov went on a tour of the United States and Europe and never returned. He eventually settled in Paris and died in France in 1936. Glazunov wrote five concertos: two for the piano, one for the cello and at the end of his life a concert for the saxophone, but the one that’s being played on a more or less regular basis is his violin concerto. You can listen to it here, performed by Dmitri Berlinsky with the Jupiter Symphony Orchestra, Jens Nygaard conducting.
Marice Green lived in a very different epoch. He was born on August 12,1696. As David Schrader writes in one of his program notes, “the youngest son of a well-to-do family of considerable lineage, Greene was likely trained under Jeremiah Clarke at St. Paul's Cathedral. When his voice broke, he was apprenticed to Richard Brind, the organist of St. Paul's since Clarke's death in 1707. While Greene is best known nowadays for his sacred music, he also contributed much to the secular music of London – he befriended Handel for a time, but something had caused a falling out between the two men so that Handel, according to Sir Charles Burney, the music historian, never mentioned his name without some injurious epithet.” Here’s David Schrader and Baroque Band playing Green’s Overture No. 1 in D Major.
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