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Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)
Suite archaïque, H.203 (1950-51) [15:34]
Monopartita, H.204 (1951) [12:02]
Symphony No.3 Liturgique, H.186 (1946) [31:33]
Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Française/Paul Sacher
Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra/Walter Stoschek (Symphony)
rec. February 1952, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris (Suite, Monopartita) and 1953, Dresden (Symphony)
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR855 [59:10]

Forgotten Records continues to mine less well-known recordings from the LP catalogues and to serve them up in excellent transfers. That’s precisely the experience with this all-Honegger release. It takes two works originally released on Pathé DT 1009 - the Suite archaïque and Monopartita - and adds the Symphony Liturgique taken from a German Urania LP [URLP 7090]. The recordings were made not much more than a year apart, in Paris and Dresden. In addition the repertory was new - brand new in the case of the two smaller pieces. The Symphony had been completed seven years before this Dresden recording and it was Honegger himself who was to direct the first recording shortly after the premiere, on a 78 set for Decca.
 
So there is some historical cachet in this selection. Sacher was famed for his commissions and also for the number of recordings he conducted. That said, the Suite archaïque was not one of his commissions, but came from Louisville and their ever-alert conductor Robert Whitney, to whom many collectors owe so much. The first European performance fell to the Collegium Musicum Zurich under Sacher in March 1952. I think it’s relatively well known that Honegger referred to theSuite archaïque as ‘merde’ - this being one of the things composers are prone to do from time to time. It’s certainly not as bad as all that - indeed it has some nice hieratic and ritualised moments, and some of the string writing sounds a bit like Arthur Bliss. It does however represent Honegger coasting along somewhat, offering insufficient contrast between the four brief movements.
 
Monopartita is a different kettle of fish altogether. It’s a superb work - compact, freighted, and with a seamless flow of invention. There is such a wealth of movement and thematic development in its brief twelve minutes that it’s remarkable that the piece does not become clotted. On the contrary, if you like the Fifth Symphony you will admire this no end. The brief toccata, hieratic brass calls, string and brass badinage, and refined lyrical episodes, as well as the moving return to the Intrada and calm coda, announce this as a major late work. It was premiered by the Zurich Tonhalle under Rosbaud in June 1951.
 
Rather more obscure, I think, is the Dresden performance of the Liturgique. It’s far more likely that one will encounter the discs made by Jean Fournet and Ansermet than this one, directed by the little-known Walter Stoschek, who was born in Löbschütz and studied in Dresden. Naturally, later conductors such as Baudo and Karajan have become leaders in the field in this symphony, but this Dresden performance has been well prepared and is strongly argued architecturally. The central movement is not taken too slowly, Stoschek keeping articulation precise and on the move. String tone is quite reserved, and there’s no tonal saturation. There’s an especially fine principal flute, and an excellent bass section. A good tempo is taken for the finale, incrementally moving. I’m not aware that Stoschek made many, if any, other studio recordings, which is disappointing if true.
 
There are no notes with this release but the inlay gives all the discographical information needed.
 
Jonathan Woolf