Arthur Honegger (March 10, 1892 – November 27, 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 imitates the sound of a steam locomotive.
Born Oscar-Arthur Honegger (the first name was never used) in Le Havre, France, he initially studied harmony and violin in Paris, and after a brief period in Zurich, returned there to study with Charles Widor and Vincent d'Indy. He continued to study through the 1910s, before writing the ballet Le dit des jeux du monde in 1918, generally considered to be his first characteristic work. In 1926 he married Andrée Vaurabourg, a pianist and fellow student at the Paris Conservatoire. They had one daughter, Pascale, born in 1932. Honegger also had a son, Jean-Claude (1926-2003), with the singer Claire Croiza.
Between World War I and World War II, Honegger was very prolific. He composed the music for Abel Gance's epic 1927 film, Napoléon. He composed nine ballets and three vocal stage works, amongst other works. One of those stage works, Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher (1935), a "dramatic oratorio", is thought of as one of his finest works. In addition to his works written alone, he collaborated with Jacques Ibert on both an opera, L'Aiglon (1937), and an operetta. During this time period he also wrote Danse de la Chèvre (1921), an essential piece of flute repertoire. Dedicated to René Le Roy and written for flute alone, this piece is lively and young, but with the same directness of all Honegger's work.
Honegger had always remained in touch with Switzerland, his country of origin, but with the outbreak of the war and the invasion of the Nazis, he found himself trapped in Paris. He joined the French Resistance and was generally unaffected by the Nazis themselves, who allowed him to continue his work without too much interference. However, he was greatly depressed by the war. Between its outbreak and his death, he wrote his last four symphonies (numbers two to five), which are quite frequently performed and recorded. Of these, the third, subtitled Symphonie liturgique and with its three movements evoking the Latin Mass (Dies Irae, De profundis clamavi and Dona nobis pacem), is probably the best known. Written in 1946 just after the end of the war, it has parallels with Benjamin Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem of 1940.
Honegger was widely known as a train enthusiast, and once notably said: "I have always loved locomotives passionately. For me they are living creatures and I love them as others love women or horses."
Arthur Honegger died at home of a heart attack on November 27, 1955 and was interred in the Cimetière Saint-Vincent in the Montmartre Quarter of Paris.
Far from reacting against the romanticism of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss as the other members of Les Six did, Honegger's mature works show evidence of a distinct influence by it. Despite the differences in their styles, he and fellow Les Six member Darius Milhaud were close friends, having studied together at the Paris Conservatoire. Milhaud dedicated his fourth string quintet to Honegger's memory, while Francis Poulenc similarly dedicated his Clarinet Sonata.
Honegger is currently featured on the Swiss twenty franc banknote.
* Jeanne d'Arc au Bûcher - Orchestre National de France/Seiji Ozawa
* Le Roi David - Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Charles Dutoit
* Napoléon; Monopartita; Prelude, Fugue, and Postlude; Le Chant de Nigamon - Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra/Marius Constant
* Pacific 231; Horace Victorieux; Mermoz Suites Nos. 1 and 2 - Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse/Michel Plasson
* Pacific 231; Rugby; Pastorale d'été - Orchestre National de l'ORTF/Jean Martinon
* Pacific 231; Rugby; Pastorale d'été - New York Philharmonic Orchestra/Leonard Bernstein
* Mouvement Symphonique No. 3 - Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler
* Symphony No. 1 - Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Charles Dutoit
* Symphony No. 2 (for strings and trumpet ad libitum) - Basel Symphony Orchestra/Paul Sacher
* Symphony No. 2 (for strings and trumpet ad libitum) - Boston Symphony Orchestra (mono, 1952); Orchestre de Paris (stereo, 1967)/Charles Munch
* Symphony No. 2 (for strings and trumpet ad libitum) - Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan
* Symphony No. 3 "Liturgique" - Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan
* Symphony No. 3 "Liturgique" - Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra/Yevgeny Mravinsky
* Symphony No. 3 "Liturgique" - Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Ernest Ansermet
* Symphony No. 3 "Liturgique" - Luxembourg Radio Symphony Orchestra/Louis de Froment
* Symphony No. 4 "Deliciae Basilensis" - Orchestra of the ORTF/Charles Munch
* Symphony No. 5 "Di tre re" - Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch
* Symphony No. 5 "Di tre re" - Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Ernest Ansermet
* Symphonies (complete) - Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Serge Baudo
* Symphonies (complete) - Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Charles Dutoit
* Symphonies (complete) - Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse/Michel Plasson
* Les Misérables (1934 film score) - Slovak Radio Symphony/Adriano