Arthur Honegger

Arthur Honegger

Arthur Honegger

Arthur Honegger


Arthur Honegger (1892--1955), Swiss by nationality, French by education and residence, was a major composer of the 20th century. Although he earned popular acclaim early in his career, in his later years his consistently tonal musical language was considered outmoded. His most significant works include five symphonies, a large body of chamber music, and several large-scale oratorios that combine choral and instrumental writing with declaimed narrative in a uniquely effective way. HARDCOVER


In writing this book, I have tried to say the last word on the subject for a number of years. At the same time, I nurse the hope that this will not be the case and that reading it will provoke those who possess works or autographs I have not discovered to reveal their treasures.

Thanks to the support I have mentioned in my dedication, I was able to devote myself to my task without interruption, spending nineteen months in almost exclusive daily contact with a man and his music. From this serious test, both of them emerged enormously enhanced. If I had entertained the slightest doubt about Honegger's stature and his eminent place in the history of music, this study would have dispelled them.

I had no intention, when I began, of writing a true biography, as this was something I had never done before. But the prodigious abundance of documentation I discovered, especially in the collections of Pascale Honegger and Paul Sacher, moved me to expand my project in this direction. This led me into some real detective work, based on the transcribing, even the deciphering, of diaries, not only Honegger's own but also his wife's, as well as on the careful study of passports, visas, and frontier entry and exit stamps, in order to work out the itineraries of journeys. These inquiries often prompted me to discover concerts I would not otherwise have known about. The biographical cloth, then, whose thread I have been weaving, has few holes in it -- from the time of Honegger's adulthood, the longest of them is no more than a month or two. I hope that reading this biography will give an idea of the full and frenetically active life the composer led.

The examination of his output is split into categories. All Honegger's works are at least mentioned, and the most important of them are analyzed in detail. The introductions to each section contain a certain number of general remarks. This has allowed me to keep the chapters of Part Three (Gathering the Threads), in which I discuss the composer's language and style, down to a minimum. For the analyses to have any meaning, they inevitably have had to be made at a certain technical level, but I have always explained the "professional" terms I have used as I go along. I have also included as many music examples as possible. They are intended to make the analyses clearer and more concise by removing the need for long descriptive paraphrases, as well as to show the profound unity of style in Honegger's music and, simply, to give examples of the . . .

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