The Swiss composer Arthur Honegger was born on 10 March 1892 at Le Havre in France. He studied mostly in Paris, including with Charles Widor and Vincent d'Indy. He was first noticed as a composer by way of his dramatic choral work King David (1921, orchestrated 1923). The short 'mouvement symphonique' Pacific 231 of 1923 also put him on the map ... both as composer and train enthusiast.
During World War II he found himself trapped in Paris and became a member of the French Resistance. Although the Nazis generally left him alone, the war depressed him, and this coloured his last four symphonies. These, along with his oratorio Jeanne d'Arc au bucher of 1935, are considered his best works.
Honegger was a friend of Darius Milhaud and a member of Les Six, although his style is weightier and more serious than that of the other composers in the group, as well as being affected by the German romanticism that the other members reacted against. His direct and impressionistic style is characterised by driving rhythms and Bachian counterpoint.
Although he kept in touch with Switzerland, He lived most of his life in Paris, and died there on 27 November 1955. His last work was the Christmas Cantata of 1953. From 1996 until 2017 he was featured on the Swiss twenty franc note - eighth series.
A selection of M&V articles about Arthur Honegger
CD Spotlight. Uniquely Peculiar - French music for brass and piano, heard by Gerald Fenech. 'Careful attention to the music's slightest details means the interpretive aspect is consistently special and charismatic.'
Ensemble. Music on the Move - Derby Concert Orchestra at Christmas, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Spellbinding Artistry - Jonathan Plowright plays Chopin, recommended by Howard Smith. '... positively hair-raising.'
Ensemble. Crystalline Lightness - A Symphony of the Americas concert, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
CD Spotlight. Engagingly Heartening - Choral and orchestral music by Arthur Honegger, enjoyed by Howard Smith. '... strikingly performed by Welsh forces ...'
CD Spotlight. Heavy Artillery - Music by Bloch, Engel, Honegger, Milhaud and Szymanowski, heard by Howard Smith. '... an acceptable though rather dated style.'
CD Spotlight. A Curious Recital - Paul Calistus-Ashley plays Poulenc, Schubert and Dett, reviewed by Howard Smith. '... verve and sensitivity.'
CD Spotlight. Pungent Sonorities - Arthur Honegger's 'Le Roi David', reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Reminiscent retrospectives - Trails and Euros, with Jennifer Paull
National ambition - Keith Bramich visits Wales for the opening concert of the 2001 Presteigne Festival