Six or Swiss? From Le Dit des jeux du monde
to Le Roi David
Arthur Honegger came to the conclusion that the orchestra put at his disposal by the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier was not big enough for the Saint-Pol Roux project, so he spent the time at Étel in August 1918 working on an Easter Mystery for the same theater. He was still mentioning this project in October, but it never came to fruition. What does survive is the Cantique de Pâques ( Easter Canticle ), which he finished in July before leaving Paris, but which he did not orchestrate until November 1922. This single relic of the Ochsé project is a modest work for female chorus and small orchestra, still very much under the influence of Debussy. As his first choral and religious work, it marks an important step along the road leading to Le Roi David.
At the same time Honegger was getting on with the long score of Le Dit des jeux du monde, which was scheduled for first performance at the end of October. In August he finished Nos. 5 and 6, which had been begun in Paris, and started work on No. 2, "La montagne et les pierres" (The Mountain and the Stones); No. 7, "Les hommes et la terre" (Man and the Earth), initially entitled "Les lances et la terre" (Spears and the Earth); and No. 9 "L'homme qui lutte et conduit" (Man Who Struggles and Leads, or Interlude 2). Movement No. 8, "L'homme et la femme" (Man and Woman), is dated July-August, and Honegger wrote it at Sauzon in Belle-Ile. The wild scenery there so inspired the composer, after the more tranquil charms of Étel, that in August and September he also wrote No. 11, "Le rat et la mort" (The Rat and Death). Movement No. 1, "Le soleil et la fleur" (The Sun and the Flower), is undated. That left Nos. 3, 10, 12, and 13 still to write, and he did this in Paris, to which he returned at the beginning of September. That month he completed No. 3, "L'enfant et la mer" (The Child and the Sea); then, in October, No. 10, "L'homme et l'ombre" (Man and the Shadow), and No. 13, the Epilogue; and finally, between the end of October and 6 November, the longest movement, No. 12, "L'homme et la mer" (Man and the Sea). A month earlier, on 6 October, he had sent his father one of the longest of all his letters.
My dear Papa,
I had intended to get myself organized well in advance, so that this letter would reach you in time for your birthday despite the censor, closed frontiers, and other small delights. The reason it hasn't happened is the 'flu