Arthur Honegger

By Harry Halbreich; Roger Nichols | Go to book overview

SEVEN

The War and After: Climax of a Career

In choosing to remain in occupied Paris, Arthur Honegger certainly made a brave decision and took a calculated risk. He could expect no favors from the Germans. The Nazi regime had banned his music as soon as they came to power, both in the Reich itself and in the annexed countries: Honegger's music would not be heard in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, or Poland until 1945. And in any case, the composer of Jeunesse, the collaborator of Romain Rolland, Vaillant-Couturier, André Wurmser, and Jean-Richard Bloch was firmly classed as a "leftist," even if he always refused to support any party actively. If one had to choose one of those labels he hated, he could be defined nowadays as a kind of social democrat, while Vaura moved more and more to the night, even if she never became an extremist.

As for Claire Croiza, whose public career was more or less at an end by 1940, she was accused of being too friendly with Vichy, and this caused her serious problems at the Liberation. The truth is less cut and dried. A Vichy law had excluded her from taking her Conservatory class (the new regulation was that both one's parents had to be French, whereas, as we know, hers were Irish and Italian). The director, Henri Rabaud, had managed, however, to secure an exception in her case. But she never, as Marcel Delannoy has suggested, sang to the occupying forces. All she did was to have faith in Marshal Pétain (head of Vichy France during the Occupation) for a time, like most French people, although her attitude led to fairly lively discussions with Honegger.

Honegger had made his own position crystal clear as early as 1939 in the June issue of the magazine Clarté, the "organ of the World Committee against Fascism and War," which reproduced his message at the International Conference for Democracy, Peace, and the Human Individual on 13 and 14 May:

Fascism denies the artist the playing out of his personal drama, his struggles, his search for new sources of inspiration, and his freedom to celebrate a creative spirit that is considered too threatening in its sincerity. It cannot deprive him of his place in the structure of society, but it leaves his inspiration no more than a narrow space, thereby limiting his freedom of expression so severely that his art becomes little more than an expression of those limitations. How can one remain indifferent to its threat?

The creative man cannot reconcile his dignity as an artist with the slav

-162-

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