Late Masterpieces
The music of “Les Six” member Arthur Honegger, a Swiss composer born in France, is surprisingly little known, perhaps because it ranges in style from highly serious works like the symphonies, oratorios and operas, through to relatively light, sometimes jazz-tinged pieces. The descriptive symphonic movements, Pacific 231 and Rugby, offer something of a middle ground. But the two pieces I enjoy most are on the lighter side. I’ll return in a future post to the quirky Cello Concerto of 1929. Two decades later came the beautifully scored Concerto da camera, a three movement concerto for string orchestra and two solo instruments – flute and cor anglais – with the flute taking the most virtuosic material, though not dominating.

For sheer beauty of sound it’s difficult to beat, and that’s achieved without compromising the adventurous tonality employed, which is frequently dissonant and polytonal. There’s no hint of jazz here, instead folk melodies pervade the intertwining lines of the two solo instruments that ride above the rich string harmonies, particularly in the first movement. The contemplative second movement has been interpreted as a “prayer of thanks” for Honegger’s recent survival from a serious heart problems – he eventually died from a heart attack seven years later. The scherzo like Vivace provides a sparkling ending.