Reynaldo Hahn: L’Heure Exquise


Venezuelan-born French composer, Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947) is fondly remembered for his huge contribution to mélodies – a popular form of French Art Song. With over 100 songs composed, plus a huge number of instrumental works,, Hahn remains a staple for many recitalists. Hahn’s breadth of emotion, paired with his soft but effective harmony keeps him at the forefront of programmes around the world. 


The Music

L’Heure Exquise (‘The Exquisite Hour’) was composed as part of his 7 Chansons grises between 1887-1890. The set was not officially published until c.1917, however the songs were certainly performed before that. For this set of songs, Hahn used text from poet Paul Verlaine:


La lune blanche

Luit dans les bois;

De chaque branche

Part une voix

Sous la ramée…

Ô bien aimée.

L’étang reflète,

Profond miroir,

La silhouette

Du saule noir

Où le vent pleure…

Rêvons, c’est l’heure.

Un vaste et tendre


Semble descendre

Du firmament

Que l’astre irise…

C’est l’heure exquise.


Originally set for soprano and piano, L’Heure Exquise speaks of the ‘Exquisite Hour’ where night falls and all becomes peaceful. There is mention of the gleaming white moon that reflects in the pool of water and how the shine of the moon bounces off the natural surroundings. The softness of the piano accompaniment leaves room for the vocalist to make the most of the delicate melodic line. The gentle nature of this song is its biggest pull as the simpleness of the music really complements the sublime vocal line that so perfectly represents the words of Verlaine. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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You might also enjoy… Alma Mahler: Five Songs for Voice and Piano


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