Born in Caracas, Venezuela, to an affluent family, Reynaldo Hahn emigrated to France at a young age, where his precocious talent was soon recognised. A pupil of Saint-Saëns, Massenet and Gounod at the Paris Conservatoire, he was never regarded as a first-rate composer, eschewing the harmonic impressionism of his contemporaries in pursuit of a more rigorous tonal discipline. Having ingratiated himself to the wealthy women of the Parisian salons, he made what was considered a rather ‘salacious’ living as a fashionable chanteur, although he did appear in more conservative echelons later in life, during a brief tenure as director of the Paris Opéra.
Written in 1916, À Chloris sets a text by the seventeenth-century poet Théophile de Viau. One of the finest examples of a pastiche (the striding, pseudo-baroque bass line evokes Bach’s Air on a G String), its charm and elegance has the ability to move audiences, with the protagonist moving between whispered confidences and fulsome declarations, as he hesitantly expresses his love.