Le Bal de Beatrice d’Este, Suite for Orchestra
Reynaldo Hahn – Le Bal de Béatrice d’Este
(b. Caracas , 9 August 1874 – d. Paris , 28 January 1947)
Entrée pour Ludovic le More p.1– Lesquercade p.9 – Romanesque – p.17
Ibérienne p.24 – Léda et l‘ Oiseau (Intermède Léonardesque) p.34 –
Courante p.38 – Salut final au Duc de Milan p.49
Reynaldo Hahn was the son and 12th child of a German-Jewish engineer/inventor and his Spanish-Basque wife. He was born in Venezuela but brought up from the age of 3 in Paris. An undoubted child prodigy, he is perhaps most famous for his chansons – he would often accompany himself singing in concert, and he recorded several in this way. But his output was large, including 17 operas, 8 ballets, 25 sets of incidental music, and 2 film scores – all demonstrating a lifetime’s involvement with the theatre. This is not surprising given that his principal teacher was Jules Massenet, though Gabriel Fauré was also influential.
Although he was a close friend of Marcel Proust, Hahn did not adopt French citizenship until 1908. But he was always very popular in French society. He was very handsome though probably gay, and many older Mesdames adopted Hahn almost as a ‘safe’ consort, even though he had conducted several liaisons with ladies of society. His main earnings came from conducting opera and theatre, mainly in Cannes, but also at such prestigious events as the Salzburg Festival. In fact he was a noted specialist in the music of Mozart. He also held the post of music critic for Le Figaro for many years.
Hahn wrote Le Bal de Béatrice d’Este in 1905. It is one of a long line of pieces written in imitation of the Renaissance dance suite. Grieg’s Holberg Suite, Delibes’ dances from Le Roi s’Amuse, and Parry’s Lady Radnor’s Suite were contemporary examples, and works such as Richard Strauss’s music for Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Peter Warlock’s Capriol Suite, and Stravinsky’s Pulcinella would follow. Hahn’s suite is dedicated to Saint-Saëns, who had taught him at the Paris Conservetoire, and whom Hahn always admired. The seven movements invoke the atmosphere of the court of the Duchy of Este in Milan. The Duchess of Milan was Beatrice (1475-1497) who with her husband was a patron of the arts and artists, including Leonardo da Vinci, for whom he painted The Last Supper.
Hahn frames his suite with fanfare-like music to announce the guests, and provides three dances – a lesquegarde, a romanesque, and a courante. A portrait of Isabella of Spain (Beatrice’s sister) gives lively rhythmic contrast in the Ibérienne, whilst Léda et l‘ Oiseau (Intermède Léonardesque) is a musical depiction of da Vinci’s painting Leda and the Swan – although Beatrice had probably died well before Leonardo painted it.
The scoring (orchestral winds, piano and two harps) is unusual. Wind band music was very popular in Paris at the time, and Hahn had already assisted at concerts of the Societé Moderne d’Instruments á Vent in 1903. It was they who gave the first performance of the piece, on 28 March 1905 in their 10th anniversary concert. Reynaldo Hahn conducted it for an HMV recording in April 1935 (French HMV I.990-991).
Philip Brookes, 2020
For performance material please contact Heugel, Paris. Reprint of a copy from the collection Gustav Pilsl, Nantwich, Cheshire.