Arthur Honegger

By Harry Halbreich; Roger Nichols | Go to book overview

NINE

Epilogue: Life's Setting Sun

The title of this final chapter -- La décroissance crépusculaire (crepuscular decrease) in the original French -- is taken from Victor Hugo Les Misdrables, where the author uses it to describe Jean Valjean's last agony and death, and it perfectly describes the gradual descent into darkness and the equally gradual slowing down of activity in a man whose daily task from then on was to find enough breath.

While Arthur was in the experienced hands of Dr. Jacquot, Vaura, and sometimes Pascale as well, stayed in the Hôtel Victoria in Glion, from where a short walk through the woods would take her every day to her husband's side. He also had other visitors, such as William Aguet and his wife on 27 March. A cryptic remark in Vaura's diary for the 31st suggests the gravity of the situation: "Does one tell her, or is she to be left in the dark?"

But Honegger continued working. On 3 April he finished the incidental music for Oedipe-Roi (Oedipus Rex), by no means a small score, at the ComddieFrançaise. Meanwhile, without any proposal on his part, he had been made a foreign member of the Institute of France, filling the chair once occupied by Haydn. Letters of congratulation immediately began arriving at Val-Mont with every mail delivery. On the 18th, just before his stay at the clinic ended, Arthur had a visit from the Sachers. On the 20th he returned to Paris, for the moment out of danger. For the moment. He wrote Sacher on the 26th:

For your birthday on Monday, I send you all the best wishes you can imagine. When you get to my age of fatal respectability, I'm afraid I shan't be there to congratulate you and celebrate as you have done for me. But I hope you won't have forgotten and that you'll remember your old composer and friend

On 6 May Charles Miinch was at the Paris Opera with his Boston Symphony Orchestra. His concert included the Sympbony for Strings, which he then took on to Brussels on the 12th and Metz on the 19th. Since the 6th, Honegger had been present at the rehearsals of Oedipe-Roi at the Comedie-Française and the first performance took place on the 14th. On the 17th Ansermet and the Suisse Romande Orchestra gave the Fifth Symphony at the Théêtre des ChampsÉlysées as part of the "Twentieth-Century Music Festival" organized by Nico-

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