Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary Composer Biographies

Arthur Honegger

Born: March 10, 1892 in Le Havre, France
Died: November 27, 1955 in Paris, France
Nationality: Swiss
Era: Twentieth Century
Main genre: Orchestral Music
Main works:
Oratorio:
"King David"
Orchestral:
5 Numbered Symphonies
3 Symphonic Movements - Pacific 231, Rugby, Mouvement symphonique
Prelude for The Storm
Concerto da camera for flute
"Piano Convertino"
"Pastorale d'ete"
"Jeanne d'Arc au bucher" (Joan of Arc at the stake)
Film music for Les Miserables, La Roue, Mermoz, Napoleon
Brief biography:

Born in France to Swiss parents, Honegger began his musical studies as a young child on the violin. His interest and talent for music stayed with him as he grew, and so he chose to attend college first at the Zurich Conservatory of Music and later at the Paris Conservatory. Shortly after his studies he became fast friends with 5 other composers in Paris and the group soon became known as “Les Six.” Eventually, the group members would grow in different directions so the group disbanded, although most of its members remained friends.

In 1917, Honegger met his future wife, Andree Vaurabourg, (Vaura). Their romance was troubled however for Honegger also fell in love with Vaura’s good friend the singer Claire Croizer. Vaura found Claire and Honegger together and Claire became pregnant, but Honegger chose to marry Vaura. This struggle was a strain on the women’s friendship, but they would manage to maintain a mutual respect for each other thoughout their lifetimes. Vaura did go on to marry Honegger, but it was under the condition that they would live apart, so he could compose. They lived quite happily with this arrangement until Honegger fell ill (a year before his death) at which point Vaura moved in to care for him.

Honegger became well known almost by accident, for his best work, Pacific 231, was just an exercise in his musical acceleration. Honegger was an activist on behalf of other composers, talking about difficulties of making a living, satisfying the public, etc. He went on composing everything from Orchestral works to Cantatas, Oratorios, Operas, Ballets, Film Music, radio music, Chamber Music and Art Songs, etc. Arthur Honegger died in November of 1955.

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