Arthur Honegger

By Harry Halbreich; Roger Nichols | Go to book overview

Part Two

INVENTORY OF WORKS

The catalog of Arthur Honegger's works includes well over two hundred items and embraces every genre. The present volume does not attempt any detailed analysis, which can be found in a separate, specialized volume, together with a true catalogue raisonné.1 For the present volume, two approaches suggested themselves: either a superficial glance at every work, or else a more profound analysis of the more important works within a more general perspective. I have chosen the latter, although all Honegger's compositions receive at least a mention, sometimes with just a few words of commentary.

The choice of works to be examined in more detail was dictated not only by their intrinsic importance, but also by the likelihood of the reader hearing them, either in the concert hall or on disc. Together with these two considerations is my continuing intention of rehabilitating those important works that are still underestimated or unknown, in the hope that this book will encourage those responsible for putting on concerts and for choosing music, to go on disc to give the works the hearing they deserve. Reference to scores will always be a valuable adjunct for those readers with access to them. Music examples have been chosen according to two, often overlapping criteria: the first, to present thematic outlines that are either typical or memorable, and the second, to establish the presence of cyclical links. Such links may exist either within a single piece -- which is especially the case for larger structures such as symphonies, oratorios, and so on -- or between one work and another, where the presence of links underlines the profound unity of Honegger's output, despite what seems at first sight to be its bewildering diversity.

"I have, in fact, written a lot." This calm statement, which Honegger made to his biographer José Bruyr at the end of their joint labors, gives some idea of Honegger's typical blend of modesty and humor. He knew perfectly well the respective value of each of his compositions, including those unpopular ones that were, understandably, dearer to him than the others -- I am thinking of Cris du monde and Antigone.

But from the most spectacular stage work to the most modest bagatelle, from the most profound symphony to the lightest popular song, from the slow movement of a string quartet to a tango or a blues, the same professional conscientiousness is to be found, the same respect for technical expertise on which Honegger is so insistent in his writings. In every case we find the stamp of the

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