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  • Marcel Proust et Reynaldo Hahn: une création à quatre mains by Philippe Blay, Jean-Christophe Branger et Luc Fraisse
  • Jennifer Rushworth
Marcel Proust et Reynaldo Hahn: une création à quatre mains. Par Philippe Blay, Jean-Christophe Branger et Luc Fraisse. (Bibliothèque proustienne, 21.) Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2018. 229 pp.

Like its subject, this book testifies to the success of interdisciplinary collaboration. Two musicologists, Philippe Blay and Jean-Christophe Branger, along with prolific Proust scholar Luc Fraisse, here offer a nuanced, extended, and polyphonic account of the relationship between Marcel Proust and Reynaldo Hahn, especially from the point of view of intellectual exchange and debate. In this analysis, there is no shying away from the evident 'désaccords' between the two (p. 20), revealed already by Proust in the famous letter to Suzette Lemaire (cited in this volume, pp. 128-29) in which he contrasts his own love of Beethoven with Hahn's privileging of words over music. There are also suggestions of dissymmetry, as, perhaps inevitably, Hahn is credited with having had much more influence over Proust's writings than Proust over Hahn's music; Fraisse grants Hahn the role not only of 'Le Périscope de Proust' (the title of one of Fraisse's chapters) but also of 'un modérateur en esthétique' (p. 183). Yet both disagreement and disequilibrium are, in this case, lovingly productive. The argument throughout brings to light mutual friends, shared spaces, and reciprocal formation, drawing on a rich variety of source materials: letters, dedications, drafts, and scores, in addition to the published writings of both Proust and Hahn. The attention to Hahn as a writer is especially pleasing and revealing; highlights include comparison of Hahn on song and Proust on style. The volume's focus is principally on the early years of the relationship between Proust and Hahn, at which point the [End Page 623] latter is much more famous than the former. Blay recalls that, at the time the two met, Hahn was working on the orchestration of parts of L'Île du rêve, and draws a fascinating connection to later discussion of orchestral colour in the Recherche. Fraisse explores letters between Hahn and the host at whose salon Proust and Hahn met, Madeleine Lemaire, as well as letters with Lemaire's daughter, the aforementioned Suzette. Letters from Hahn (including praise of Du côté de chez Swann) are also studied in Branger's second contribution to this volume, while his first in contrast is devoted to a triangulation of Proust, Hahn, and Hahn's composition tutor, Massenet. Branger nuances Proust's apparent dislike of Massenet's music, and even suggests Massenet's Werther as a new source for the Vinteuil sonata. Notwithstanding the focus on the early years and the fact that Hahn appears to be a '[g]rand absent' from the Recherche (Blay's phrase, p. 61), much of this volume also illuminates Proust's novel, as the latter's many musical passages are persuasively suggested to be frequently in implicit dialogue with the composer. Several of these essays have been published before as articles, but are usefully gathered together here. The volume is also markedly future-orientated, promising related forthcoming work on the topic, in particular proceedings of a conference on Proust and music (Fondation Singer-Polignac, 25-27 October 2016), a biography of Hahn by Blay, and Vincent Giroud's edition of Hahn's music criticism. For these and other such studies, this book is an extremely valuable cornerstone.

Jennifer Rushworth


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