January 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

Arthur HONEGGER Crime et Châtiment. L’Idée. Farinet. Le Déserteur. Le Grand Barrage Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra   Marco Polo  8.223466 [58:48]

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(Note: This recording has been available for some time - it was made in 1992)

Honegger scored some forty films over about thirty years. His legacy had a profound effect on the history and development of film music. In fact the early section of the cue 'Raskolnikov - Sonia' from Crime et Châtiment reminds one very much of some of Bernard Herrmann's music from Vertigo where James Stewart's character is following Madeleine (Kim Novak) through the streets of San Francisco.

Farinet ou L'Or dans la Montagne (1938) was set in the Swiss mountains and was about a young man accused of forgery who is betrayed by a jealous girl he has spurned. The music has a rugged sweeping out-of-doors feel, and the main tune sounds curiously like a hornpipe. There are nice smooth rustling string figures suggesting breezes through the trees. This pastoral calm is contrasted with hectic, vigorously dramatic elements for the chase music as his pursuers close in for the kill. Honegger uses an alto saxophone very evocatively.

Crime et Châtiment, after the novel by Dostoyevsky, was about Raskolnikov, a student, obsessed by a murder he has committed, and his involvement with a prostitute whom he wishes to save. The more he feels attracted to Sonia, the more he feels the need to confess his crime to the police, who already suspect his guilt. Honegger uses the Ondes Martinot impressively as a solo instrument for leitmotifs, as a reinforcement of the bass-line or as an atmospheric addition to the score. This score is most impressive, particularly the music for 'Départ pour le crime', where there is a growing and pervasive sense of doom occasioned by deep tolling bells and persistent, incessant dark ostinatos and canon-like counter motifs. Weird creepy effects abound from the woodwinds and Ondes.

Le Déserteur ou Je t'attaendrai (Fragment symphonique, 1939) was about a World War I soldier who deserts his troop to visit his parents and his fiancée. It is a score of considerable charm and power. Tender, poignant moments are contrasted with stealthy figures as the deserter tries to stay hidden from his pursuers; and then more desperate impassioned music as the hunt for him draws nearer.

Le Grand Barage appears to have been about a huge mountain reservoir. The brief three-minute suite is majestically imposing with some sparkling watery effects.

L'Idée is the most substantial score on this album lasting some 25 minutes. The film was one of only two animated features that Honegger scored. The visual images were based on woodcuts by the Belgian expressionist painter and sculpter, Frans Masereel who was a life-long militant pacifist, opposed to all forms of oppression. War, man's loneliness in the modern world and social criticism are all constant themes in his works. Quoting the booklet notes, " More than any other film score by the composer, this contains typical devices of the film and theatre music of the 1920s and 30s, making it sound, at times, like Hindemith or Kurt Weill. The idea itself, its lyrical leitmotif stated and developed at the beginning by a solo of 39 bars for the Ondes Martinot, is represented by the silhouette of an immortal, naked girl, inspiring mankind and leading revolt against all kinds of oppression."

Honegger's music for L'Idée is large and heroic in scope taking in many diverse forms and moods. There are happy and blues jazz elements; despondent and affirmative marches, and music evocative of relentless soul-destroying machinery. The music builds up into an impassioned climax using material reminiscent of Holst's 'Mars' from his The Planets Suite, before a peaceful and serene conclusion.

Adriano delivers very persuasive performance of all these fine scores


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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