by Lucie Lambert (1907)
Composer, conductor, music critic, diarist, theatre director, and salon singer. Best known as a composer of songs, he wrote in the French classical tradition of the mélodie.
Reynaldo Hahn was born in Caracas, Venezuela, August 9, 1874. His parents were Elena Maria de Echenagucia and Carlos Hahn. At the age of three they moved to Paris. A child prodigy, Reynaldo made his début at the salon of the eccentric Princess Mathilde (Napoleon's niece) accompanying himself on the piano as he sang arias by Jacques Offenbach. At the age of eight, Hahn composed his first songs. At ten years old he entered the Paris Conservatoire. His teachers included Jules Massenet, Charles Gounod, Camille Saint-Saëns and Émile Descombes. Alfred Cortot and Maurice Ravel were fellow students.
In 1888 Reynaldo composed "Si mes vers avaient des ailes" to a poem by Victor Hugo; it was an instant success when published by Le Figaro. From this exposure and publicity, Hahn came into contact with many leading artists in Paris (in addition to the relationships he had cultivated at the Conservatoire). The famed soprano Sybil Sanderson and the writer Alphonse Daudet invited Hahn into their social sphere. Hahn had "a special gift" of attracting "important people to his side".
In 1894 Reynaldo met the little known, “highly strung and snobby” writer, Marcel Proust. They became lovers. Proust's unfinished autobiographical novel Jean Santeuil which he began in 1895, is reportedly based on Hahn. Although by 1896 they were no longer lovers, they remained lifelong friends and supporters until Proust's death in 1922.
Hahn volunteered for service in the French Army during World War I. After the war he served as general manager of the Cannes Casino opera house. For many years he was the influential music critic of the leading Paris daily, Le Figaro.
He died January 28, 1947 in Paris, France, of a brain tumor.