Saturday, March 10, 2007


Arthur Honegger was born on this day in 1892 in Le Havre, France of Swiss parentage.

In his chamber music, orchestral music and oratorios, Honegger exhibited a broad range of styles, from music reminiscent of the 18th century to very modern compositions, as well as an eclectic quirkiness in subject matter and form. Although he was a close friend of Darius Milhaud and was grouped with Milhaud as one of "Les Six," a clique of young Paris composers who had clustered around the mastery of Erik Satie during the 1920s, Honegger held the germanic composers Mozart and Bach as his musical heroes -- the only member of Les Six to stand in opposition to Satie’s gallo-centrism and sardonic disengagement.

Honegger’s reputation stands mainly on his King David oratorio (1921), composed for the Mezieres folk theater in Lausanne, Switzerland, but among his other idiosyncratic works are the famous "mimed symphony," Horace Victorieux (1921); musical portraits of a locomotive (Pacific 231, 1924) and a rugby game (Rugby, 1928); an opera based on Rostand’s L’Aiglon (1937); and a ballet for one voice, orchestra and a Martenot Musical Wave machine, Semiramis (1924). The gimmickry of such pieces tends to overshadow the dramatic power he was capable of displaying in such pieces as Jeanne d’Arc au bucher (1935), an oratorio with a libretto by Paul Claudel, and the film scores for Abel Gance’s Napoleon and Les Miserables (1934).

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