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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Arthur Honegger - Symphony No. 4; Summer Pastoral; A Christmas Cantata (Vladimir Jurowski)


Composer: Arthur Honegger
  1. Pastorale d'été (Summer Pastoral)
  2. Symphony No. 4 "Deliciae Basilienses": Lento e misterioso - Allegro
  3. Symphony No. 4 "Deliciae Basilienses": Larghetto
  4. Symphony No. 4 "Deliciae Basilienses": Allegro
  5. Une Cantate de Noël (A Christmas Cantata): De profundis clamavi
  6. Une Cantate de Noël (A Christmas Cantata): Ne craignez point
  7. Une Cantate de Noël (A Christmas Cantata): Laudate Dominum omnes gentes

Christopher Maltman, baritone
London Philharmonic Choir; Neville Creed, chorus master
New London Children's Choir; Ronald Corp, choir master
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Vladimir Jurowski, conductor
Date: 2007 (1-4), 2009 (5-7)
Label: LPO



While there is strength to some of Honegger’s works, not least his oratorio Le roi David and the orchestral Pacific 231 and Symphonie liturgique (his Symphony No 3), this curious disc seems intent, for the most part, on suggesting that he possessed an uncommon ability to induce catalepsy in his listeners. The Fourth Symphony of 1946, written to a commission from his Swiss compatriot Paul Sacher, is subtitled Deliciae basiliensis – the Delights of Basle – and is crafted with impeccable, watchmaker precision in terms of some interesting rhythmic syncopations and, in general, a bristling command of instrumental timbre. However, the moments that catch the ear are interspersed with others where Honegger seems to be treading water, or where he seems to be flexing his contrapuntal muscles in a clever-clever way or making a stab at humour.

What a strange conundrum the symphony is, but the LPO play it as though they meant every note. It was recorded live at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall (while the Festival Hall was still closed for renovation) in March 2007, along with the Pastoral d’été of 1920. That was the year in which the iconoclastic group of Les Six, in which Honegger was included, really came into being, but Pastorale d’été shows him clinging on to sounds of the 19th century, not without some skill but with little to identify him as a distinctive voice. The well-made, heartfelt and ultimately jubilant Une cantate de Noël of 1953, recorded at the RFH in 2009, is altogether more uplifting.

-- Geoffrey Norris, Gramophone

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Arthur Honegger (10 March 1892 – 27 November 1955) was a Swiss composer, who was born in France and lived a large part of his life in Paris. He was a member of Les Six. His most frequently performed work is probably the orchestral work Pacific 231, which was inspired by the sound of a steam locomotive. His style is weightier and more solemn than that of his colleagues in Les Six.


Vladimir Jurowski (born 4 April 1972 in Moscow, Russia) is a Russian conductor. In May 2006, Jurowski was announced as the 11th Principal Conductor of the LPO. His contract was furthered through 2018. In September 2015, the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra announced the appointment of Jurowski as its next chief conductor, effective with the 2017-2018 season.


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