Wald is a large village in the mountainous region known as the Zurich Oberland, near the borders of the Swiss canton of St. Gallen, not far from Lake Zurich. The Zurich Oberland is fairly modest, not to be confused with the Bernese Oberland -- no peak here reaches four thousand feet. At the beginning of the nineteenth century there lived in Wald a peasant family of the name of Honegger, a widespread patronymic in the canton of Zurich. It comes from the SwissGerman Hohen-Egg-Herr, meaning "the man from the place up there." 1
From Wald, the branch of the Honegger family that concerns us moved to Thalwil, on the shores of the lake, a few miles from the big city and today part of its residential suburbs. It was there that Arthur, the composer's father, was born on 9 October 1851, the son of Caspar Honegger and Rosalie, née Hasler, also a native of the canton of Zurich. Arthur senior left Zurich for Le Havre to join a large Swiss colony, composed mostly of tradesmen and wholesalers, but came back to Zurich to marry, on 11 May 1891, Julie Ulrich, the daughter of Johann Caspar Ulrich and Margaretha Hausheer. She was born in Zurich on 22 June 1859, and so was nearly eight years younger than he. The Ulrichs were one of the oldest Zurich families and when, in 1935, Arthur Honegger had to establish proof of his "Aryanism" to be allowed to collaborate on a film in Germany, he was able to follow the Ulrich family tree back as far as 1535. The wedding on 11 May 1891 was no more than a consolidation of links already uniting the two families, since on 26 April 1888, Arthur's elder brother, Oskar (born 22 February 1850), had married Julie's elder sister Louise (born 2 September 1857). Unlike his brother, Oskar Honegger stayed in Zurich, where he became an important figure, both as a judge and as an amateur musician. One of Arthur Honegger's first published works, the Toccata and Variations for piano ( 1916), was dedicated to the memory of his uncle Oskar, who died in 1920, the year before its publication.
After settling in Le Havre, Arthur and Julie Honegger had four children, of which the composer was the eldest. On 11 March 1892, the happy father went to the town hall to register the birth of a son, born on 10 March at eight o'clock in the morning, whom he named Oscar-Arthur (the first of these names was never used). The house where the boy was born, since destroyed by bombing in the Second World War, was a fine middle-class structure at 86 boulevard François Ier, on the corner of the rue Frédérick Lemaîitre. The birth certificate