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Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)
Amphion: orchestral suite, H71A (1929: arr 1948) [14:50]
Pacific 231, Symphonic Movement No. 1, H53 (1923) [6:41]
Jour de fête suisse, H174A orchestral suite from Schwyer Fäschtagg (1945) [21:05]
Concertino for piano and orchestra, H55 (1925) [12:31]
Horace victorieux, Symphonie mimée for orchestra, H38 (1920-21) [22:18]
Sérénade à Angélique, H182 (1945) [7:08]
Andrée Honegger-Vaurabourg (piano)
Orchestra of Südwestfunk, Baden-Baden/Arthur Honegger
rec. 29 May 1949, Südwestfunk Studio, Baden-Baden
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR1497-98 [42:39+41:58]

Forgotten Records have sourced a varied Honegger programme given in May 1949 in Baden-Baden. It’s a ‘composer conducts’ evening with popular numbers like Pacific 231 sitting alongside much more obscure items, a fact that only increases the pleasure. Though the sound is a little congested it has good clarity.

It was something of an audience-tester to start with the orchestral suite Amphion. Along with copious romantic lyricism and its saxophone solo there’s the granitic, long and pulsating fugue to consider. Both the sax and the cor anglais player – the latter has a rather oesophageal tone - are characterful and Honegger winds down to rustling winds to end a piece full of colour and flair. The trumpet principal drives Pacific 231 with relentless power. There’s something of a novelty in the form of Jour de fête Suisse, an orchestral suite deriving from his ballet L’Appel de la montagne, written a few years before the concert in 1945. It’s crisp, genial, festive, heroic, mock-heroic, but always dramatic, rhythmically vivid, waltz-like, filmic-comic, drolly lugubrious and more besides - a cornucopia of moods graced by one of Honegger’s most lively and lyrical scenas, all bluster left behind in a glorious sunset glow.

Honegger’s wife, Andrée Honegger-Vaurabourg (1894-1980) is on hand for the Concertino. She is highly effective in the work’s Buster Keaton elements – its deadpan wit – and in its jazzier flights, which she plays with a certain reserve. Horace victorieux must have been a novelty for the Baden-Baden orchestral as well as its audience. It’s a ‘mimed symphony’ after Livy, composed in the early 1920s and originally conceived as a ballet. Its powerful dissonances are notable, as is its almost sickly eroticism, a kind of curdled expressionism – possibly derived from Strauss. The battle music is, understandably given the date of composition, vicious and unremitting. Fortunately, he didn’t leave things there; it would be a grim way to end a concert. He added the light Sérénade à Angélique, a suite that runs continuously. The alto sax is prominent here too, as are fast tonguing trumpets and plenty of dapper lyricism. This is the way to end things.

There is some residual tape hiss but nothing at all obtrusive. There are no notes but there are a few internet links to pursue. Though its length means it has spilled over into two discs, this is a wildly contrasting and vividly played concert and it’s good to have it made available.

Jonathan Woolf

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