Arthur Honegger

By Harry Halbreich; Roger Nichols | Go to book overview

SIX

Toward the Summit: Claudel and the Cinema

Arthur Honegger now embarked on a creative regime that was both intense and curiously divided. During the period covered by this chapter ( 1934-1940), there were on the one hand the large enterprises, stamped with his personality and made to last. These included three oratorios, Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher, La Danse des motts, and Nicolas de Flue; chamber music, in the shape of two string quartets, the Partita for two pianos, and the Three Poems of Claudel; and the Nocturne for orchestra. On the other hand, there were no fewer than twenty-three film scores, popular songs, and occasional pieces, and, between these two extremes, four ballets, the earliest works for radio, contributions to collaborative stage productions, sundry works such as Les Mille et Une Nuits (The Thousand and One Nights) and Radio-Panoramique, and finally two collaborative efforts with Jacques Ibert, the grand opera L'Aiglon and the operetta Les Petites Cardinal. In short, Honegger had recovered not only his prolific inspiration, but also his contact with the public, and he was able, thanks to his superhuman energy, to reconcile the demands of art with those of everyday life.

It was during the summer of 1933 that the Honeggers went for the first time to the Bayreuth festival. They would return there in 1936.

On 22 August they left for a holiday at Perros-Guirec and, on 8 October, Arthur had another talk with Bartosch about L'Idée. On the 21st, the Symphonic Movement No. 3 had its first performance in France. The composer who, as we have seen, was not present at the first performance in Berlin, conducted the Pasdeloup Orchestra. On 2 November, Honegger had a meeting over another film project, this time with the producer Raymond Bernard, for whom he would write the substantial score to his huge trilogy on Victor Hugo Les Misérables. On the 10th, he was on the set at Joinville and would return there frequently.

Meanwhile, on the 12th, the faithful Ernest Ansermet, conducting the Suisse Romande Orchestra, introduced the Symphonic Movement No. 3 to his regular Geneva audience. On the 18th, Honegger found time, in between two periods of composition, to attend another revival of Le Roi David, conducted by Robert Siohan. And on 3 December, he left with Vaura for Zurich and two performances of Cris du mondeJoinvilleJoinville on the 4th and 5th, conducted by Volkmar Andreae. From there they went on to Milan, where they took part in a chamber music concert on the 8th, including the Cello Sonata, the Seven Short Pieces, the Suite for two pianos, the String Quartet No. 1, three songs, and Pâques à New York.

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