Honegger: Symphony No. 4, Pastorale d’Ete, Une Cantate de Noel
London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir
New London Children’s Choir
Vladimir Jurowski, conductor
Christopher Maltman, baritone
Swiss composer Arthur Honegger is basically known for two things: being a member of “Les Six,” and writing Pacific 2-3-1.
This release goes a long way towards changing that shallow impression
for the better. Arthur Honegger was a consummate craftsman, writing
music that was impressionistic, lyrical, full of rich harmonies, and
sounded like no one else.
The album opens with Honegger’s tone poem Pastorale d’ete.
Composed on holiday in the Swiss alps, this short work is a wonderful
sonic postcard from and makes a great opener for the program.
Symphony No. 4,
written just after the end of the Second World War, is an exuberant
work. Honegger incorporates two Swiss folk songs into the composition,
which provide some of the thematic material Honegger rigorously
develops. Although this is a light-hearted work, it’s by no means a
light one. While pleasant-sounding on the surface, the structure and
depth of the composition reward careful and repeated listening.
Une Cantate de Noel
was Honegger’s final completed composition, written while he was
terminally ill. Although it features several familiar Christmas carols
artfully woven together, this is no treacly songs-of-the-season medley.
The opening is somber and restless, reflecting Honegger’s emotional
state. As the music progresses, that mood changes, as if the composer is
turning from the woes of this world, to the serenity of the next. Une Cantate is a transformative work, moving from darkness to light, returning spiritual depth to well-known (if not shop-warm) carols.
London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir do an excellent job, turning in
remarkably clean and tight live performances. Conductor Vladimir
Jurowski exhibits sure command of this material, and clearly has a deep
affinity for Honegger’s music.
If you’re not familiar with Honegger, or – worse yet – only know his one hit, this disc can be a revelation.