Arthur Honegger

By Harry Halbreich; Roger Nichols | Go to book overview

TEN

Chamber Music
Arthur Honegger began his creative life in the most traditional way possible: by writing piano pieces, songs, and chamber music. His first modest attempt at an orchestral work, the Prelude for Aglavaine et Sélysette, dates from the end of 1916 and bears the number 10 in my chronological catalog. But Honegger's most prolific chamber music period, both instrumental and vocal, came to an abrupt end during the summer of 1923, when he finished two works that he had been working on for some time: Le Cahier romand and the Six Poems of Jean Cocteau. Certainly, he would later compose two important string quartets, two sonatas, and one or two shorter pieces, as well as several more songs at the start of the Second World War. But chamber music would now assume no more than a marginal place in his output and there would be none written during the final years. There are no last sonatas or last quartets -- a lack much to be regretted. His pessimism over the small audiences attracted to the genre no doubt contributed to this, and unfortunately, he died too soon to see the resurgence of interest that took place, largely due to recordings, during the 1960s.In fact, this avenue of inspiration was diverted and reached its goal in another direction. Just as the frustration he felt over the future of opera after the lukewarm reception of Antigone led him to write oratorios with a strong visual input ( Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher being the prime example), similarly one could say that the Second Symphony (Symphony for Strings) marks the ultimate expression of his quartet writing. There is, therefore, no call for undue regret. The harvest is still a fine one, as we shall see.
Category 1: Music for Piano, Two Pianos, and Organ
1. Three Pieces for piano (Scherzo, Humoresque, Adagio)
8. Toccata and Variations
14. Fugue and Chorale for organ
23. Three Pieces for piano (Prélude, Hommage à Ravel, Danse)
25. Seven Short Pieces
26. Sarabande, from the Album des Six

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