Honegger, Arthur (Oscar)

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Honegger, Arthur (Oscar)

Honegger, Arthur (Oscar), remarkable French composer; b. Le Havre (of Swiss parents), March 10, 1892; d. Paris, Nov. 27, 1955. He studied violin in Paris with Capet, then took courses with Kempter and Hegar at the Zürich Cons. (1909–11). Returning to France in 1912, he entered the Paris Cons., in the classes of Gédalge and Widor; also took lessons with d’Indy. His name first attracted attention when he took part in a concert of Les Nouveaux Jeunes in Paris on Jan. 15, 1918. In 1920 Henri Collet publ, an article in Comoedia in which he drew a fortuitous parallel between the Russian Five and a group of young French composers whom he designated as Les Six. These Six were Honegger, Milhaud, Poulenc, Auric, Durey, and Tailleferre. The label persisted, even though the 6 composers went their separate ways and rarely gave concerts together. In the early years of his career, Honegger embraced the fashionable type of urban music, with an emphasis on machine-like rhythms and curt, pert melodies. In 1921 he wrote a sport ballet, Skating Rink, and a mockmilitaristic ballet, Sousmarine. In 1923 he composed the most famous of such machine pieces, Mouvement symphonique No. 1, subtitled Pacific 231. The score was intended to be a realistic tonal portrayal of a powerful American locomotive, bearing the serial number 231. The music progressed in accelerating rhythmic pulses toward a powerful climax, then gradually slackened its pace until the final abrupt stop; there was a simulacrum of a lyrical song in the middle section of the piece. Pacific 231 enjoyed great popularity and became in the minds of modernminded listeners a perfect symbol of the machine age. Honegger’s 2ndMouvement symphonique, composed in 1928, was a musical rendering of the popular British sport rugby. His Mouvement symphonique No. 3, however, bore no identifying subtitle. This abandonment of allusion to urban life coincided chronologically with a general trend away from literal representation and toward absolute music in classical forms, often of historical or religious character. Among his most important works in that genre were Le Roi David, to a biblical subject, and Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher, glorifying the French patriot saint on the semimillennium of her martyrdom. Honegger’s syms. were equally free from contemporary allusions; the first 2 lacked descriptive titles; his 3rd was entitled Liturgique, with a clear reference to an ecclesiastical ritual; the 4th was named Deliciae Basilienses, because it was written to honor the city of Basel; the somewhat mysterious title of the 5th, Di tre re, signified nothing more arcane than the fact that each of its movements ended on the thrice-repeated note D. Honegger spent almost all of his life in France, but he retained his dual Swiss citizenship, a fact that caused some biographers to refer to him as a Swiss composer. In 1926 he married the pianist-composer Andrée Vaurabourg (1894–1980), who often played piano parts in his works. In 1929 he paid a visit to the U.S.; he returned in 1947 to teach summer classes at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, but soon after his arrival was stricken with a heart ailment and was unable to complete his term; he returned to Paris and remained there until his death. He publ, a book, Je suis compositeur (Paris, 1951; Eng. tr., London, 1966).


dramatic:LeRoi David, dramatic Psalm for Narrator, Soloists, Chorus, and 15 Instruments (Mézières, june 11, 1921; rev. as an oratorio with Full Orch., 1923; Winterthur, Dec. 2, 1923); Antigone, opera (1924-27; Brussels, Dec. 28, 1927); Judith, biblical drama (Mézières, June 11, 1925; expanded as an opera, Monte Carlo, Feb. 13, 1926); Amphion, melodrama (1929; Paris, June 23, 1931); Les Aventures du Roi Pausole, operetta (1929-30; Paris, Dec. 12, 1930); Cris du Monde, stage oratorio for Soprano, Contralto, Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (1930; Solothurn, May 3, 1931); La Belle de Moudon, operetta (Mézières, May 30, 1931); Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher, dramatic oratorio (1934-35; concert version, without Prologue, Basel, May 12, 1938; stage premiere, in German, Zürich, June 13, 1942); L’Aiglon, opera (1935; Monte Carlo, March 11, 1937; in collaboration with J. Ibert); Les Mille et Une Nuits, spectacle for Soprano, Tenor, Chorus, and Orch. (Paris Exhibition, 1937); Les Petites Cardinal, operetta (1937; Paris, Feb. 20, 1938; in collaboration with J. Ibert); Nicolas de Flue, dramatic legend for Narrator, Chorus, Children’s Chorus, and Orch. (1939; concert premiere, Solothurn, Oct. 26, 1940; stage premiere, Neuchâtel, May 31, 1941). Ballet: Vérité-Mensonge, marionette ballet (Paris, Nov. 1920); Skating Rink (1921; Paris, Jan. 20, 1922); Sousmarine (1924; Paris, June 27, 1925); Roses de métal (Paris, 1928); Semiramis, ballet-melodrama (1931; Paris, May 11, 1934); Un Oiseau blanc s’est envolé (Paris, June 1937); Le Cantique des cantiques (1937; Paris, Feb. 2, 1938); La Naissance des couleurs (1940; Paris, 1949); Le Mangeur de rêves (Paris, 1941); L’Appel de la montagne (1943; Paris, July 9, 1945); Chota Roustaveli or L’Homme à la peau de léopard (1945; Monte Carlo, May 5, 1946; scenes 2 and 3 by Harsanyi and A. Tcherepnin); De la musique (1950). incidental music:Les Dit des jeux du monde for Flute, Trumpet, Percussion, and Strings (1918; as a ballet, Paris, Dec. 2, 1918); La Mort de Sainte Alméenne (1918); La Danse macabre (1919); Saül (Paris, June 16, 1922); Fantasio (1922); Antigone (1922); La Tempête (1923); Liluli (1923); Le Miracle de Notre-Dame (1925); L’Impératrice aux rochers (1925; Paris, Feb. 17, 1927); Phèdre (1926); 800 mètres (1941); Le Soulier de satin for Soprano, Baritone, and Orch. (Paris, Nov. 17, 1943); Charles le Téméraire for Chorus, 2 Trumpets, 2 Trombones, and Percussion (1943-4; Mézières, May 27, 1944); Hamlet for Narrator, Chorus, and Orch. (Paris, Oct. 17, 1946); Prométhée (1946); L’État de siège (Paris, Oct. 27, 1948); Tête d’or (1948); Oedipe-Roi (1948). radio music:Les Douze Coups de minuit, “radio-mystère” for Chorus and Chamber Orch. (Paris Radio, Dec. 27, 1933); Radio panoramique for Tenor, Soprano, Organ, String Quintet, Wind Instruments, and Percussion (Geneva Radio, March 4, 1935; concert premiere, Paris, Oct. 19, 1935); Christophe Colomb, radio oratorio for 2 Tenors, Chorus, and Orch. (Lausanne Radio, April 17, 1940); Les Battements du monde for Woman’s Voice, Child’s Voice, Chorus, and Orch. (Lausanne Radio, May 18, 1944); Saint François d’Assise for Narrator, Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (Lausanne Radio, Dec. 3, 1949). fi1m:Les Misérables (1934); Mayerling (1935); Regain (1937); Mlle. Doctor (1937); Pygmalion, after G.B. Shaw’s play (1938); Mermoz (1943); Bour-delle (1950); 36 others. ORCH.: Prélude pour “Aglavaine et Sélysette,” after Maeterlinck (1916-17; Paris Cons. orch. class, April 3, 1917, composer conducting); Le Chant de Nigamon (1917; Paris, Jan. 3, 1920); Entrée, Nocturne et Berceuse for Piano and Chamber Orch. (Paris, 1919); Pastorale d’été (1920; Paris, Feb. 12, 1921); Horace Victorieux,”mimed sym.” (1920-21; concert premiere, Lausanne, Oct. 30, 1921; mimed premiere, Essen, Dec. 28, 1927); Marche funèbre (1 section of Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel, with other individual sections by Auric, Milhaud, Poulenc, and Tailleferre; Paris, June 18, 1921); Chant de joie (Paris, April 7, 1923); Prélude pour “La Tempête,” after Shakespeare (Paris, May 1, 1923); Pacific 231 (Mouvement symphonique No. 1; 1923; Paris, May 8, 1924); Piano Concertino (1924; Paris, May 23, 1925; A. Vaurabourg soloist); Suite from incidental music to L’Impératrice aux rochers (1925); Suite from incidental music to Phèdre (1926); Rugby {Mouvement symphonique No. 2; Paris, Oct. 19, 1928, Ansermet conducting); Prélude, Fugue et Postlude, from the melodrama Amphion (1929; Geneva, Nov. 3, 1948); Cello Concerto (1929; Boston, Feb. 17, 1930); 5 syms.: No. 1 (1929-30; Boston, Feb. 13, 1931), No. 2 for Strings and optional Trumpet (1941; Zürich, May 18, 1942), No. 3, Liturgique (1945-46; Zürich, Aug. 17, 1946), No. 4, Deliciae Basilienses (1946; Basel, Jan. 21, 1947), and No. 5, Di tre re (1950; Boston, March, 9, 1951); Mouvement symphonique No. 3 (1932-33; Berlin, March 26, 1933); Suite from the film Les Misérables (1934; Paris, Jan. 19, 1935); Prélude, Arioso et Fughetta sur le nom de BACH for Strings (arranged by A. Hoérée from the piano version, 1936; Paris, Dec. 5, 1936); Nocturne (Brussels, April 30, 1936); La Marche sur la Bastille for Band, from incidental music for Romain Rolland’s pageant Le Quatorze Juillet (Paris, July 14, 1936); La Grande Barrage,”image musicale” (1942); Jour de fête suisse, suite from the ballet L’Appel de la montagne (1943; Winterthur, Nov. 14, 1945); 2 extracts from the film Mermoz (1943); Sérénade à Angélique for Small Orch. (Zürich Radio, Nov. 19, 1945); Concerto da camera for Flute, English Horn, and Strings (Zürich, May 6, 1949); Toccata (1 section of La Guirlande de Compra, with other individual sections by Lesur, Manuel, Tailleferre, Poulenc, Sauguet, and Auric, 1950; complete work, Aix-en-Provence Festival, July 31, 1952); Suite archaïque (1950-51; Louisville, Feb. 28, 1951); Monopartita (Zürich, June 12, 1951). CHAMBER: 2 violin sonatas (1916-18; 1919); 3 string quartets (1916-17; 1934-36; 1936-37); Rapsodie for 2 Flutes, Clarinet (or 2 Violins, Viola), and Piano (1917); Danse de la chèvre for Flute (1919); Sonatina for 2 Violins (1920); Viola Sonata (1920); Cello Sonata (1920); Hymn for 10 String Instruments (1920); Sonatina for Clarinet or Cello and Piano (1921–22); 3 contrepoints for Flute, English Horn, Violin, and Cello (1923); Prélude et Blues for Quartet of Chromatic Harps (1925); Sonatina for Violin and Cello (1932); Petite suite for any 2 Treble Instruments and Piano (1934); Sonata for Solo Violin (1940); Sortileges for Ondes Martenot (1946); Intrada for Trumpet and Piano (1947); Romance for Flute and Piano (1953). piano: 3 pièces {Scherzo, Humor-esque, and Adagio espressivo; 1910); 3 pièces: Hommage à Ravel (1915); Prélude et Danse (1919); Toccata et Variations (1916); 7 pièces brèves (1919–20); Sarabande (1920); Le Cahier Romand, 5 pieces (1921–23); Hommage à Albert Roussel (1928); Suite for 2 Pianos (1928); Prélude, Arioso et Fughetta sur le nom de BACH (1932; arranged for Strings by A. Hoérée in 1936); Scenic-Railway (1937); Partita for 2 Pianos (1940; arranged from 3 contrepoints); 2 esquisses, in Obouhov’s simplified notation (1943–44); Souvenir de Chopin (1947). VOCAL: Cantique de Pâques for 3 Women’s Voices, Women’s Chorus, and Orch. (1918; Toulouse, March 27, 1923); Pâques à New York for Voice and String Quartet (1920); Chanson de Ronsard for Voice, Flute, and String Quartet (1924); 3 chansons de la petite sirène for Voice, Flute, and Strings or String Quartet (1926); La Danse des morts, oratorio for Narrator, Soloists, Chorus, Organ, and Orch. (1938; Basel, March 1, 1940); Chant de libération for Baritone, Unison Chorus, and Orch. (1942; Paris, Oct. 22, 1944); Une Cantate de Noël for Baritone, Chorus, Children’s Chorus, Organ, and Orch. (sketched 1941, completed 1953; Basel, Dec. 18, 1953). songs:4 poèmes (1914–16); 6 poèmes de Apollinaire (1915-17; Nos. 1 and 3-6 orchestrated as 5 poèmes de Apollinaire, 1916-17); 3 poèmes de Paul Fort (1916); 6 poésies de Jean Cocteau (1920–23); 2 chants d’Ariel (1923; also arranged for Orch.); 3 poèmes de Claudel (1939–0); 3 Psalms (1940–41); 5 mélodies- minute (1941); 4 Songs for Low Voice and Piano (1944–45).


Roland-Manuel, A. H (Paris, 1925); A. George, A. H. (Paris, 1926); W Tappolet, A. H. (in Ger., Zürich, 1933; 2nd Ger. ed., Zürich, 1954; Fr. ed., Neuchâtel, 1938; 2nd Fr. ed., Neuchâtel, 1957); C. Gérard, A. H.: Catalogue succinct des oeuvres (Brussels, 1945); J. Bruyr, H. et son oeuvre (Paris, 1947); J. Matter, H ou La Quête de joie (Lausanne, 1956); A. Gauthier, A. H. (London, 1957); M. Landowski, H. (Paris, 1957); W. Reich, ed., A. H, Nachklang: Schriften, Photos, Dokumente (Zürich, 1957); J. Fes-chotte, A. H: L’Homme et son oeuvre (Paris, 1966); P. Meylan, A. H, Humanitäre Botschaft der Musik (Frauenfeld, 1970); J. Mail-liard and J. Nahoum, Les Symphonies d’A. H. (Paris, 1974); G. Spratt, The Music of A. H (Cork, 1987); H. Halbreich, A. H: Un musicien dans la cité des hommes (Paris, 1992; Eng. tr., 1999); M. Kelkel, ed., Colloque international A. H.- Darius Milhaud (Paris, 1994); J. Roy, Le groupe des six: Poulenc, Milhaud, H, Auric, Tailleferre, Durey (Paris, 1994).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire