Classical The best music site on the web there is where you can read about and listen to blues, jazz, classical music and much more. This is your ultimate music resource. Tons of albums can be found within. Sat, 27 Nov 2021 18:07:13 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb Arthur Honegger & Jacques Ibert - L'Aiglon (2016) Arthur Honegger & Jacques Ibert - L'Aiglon (2016)

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CD 1: Honegger & Ibert: L'Aiglon

Act 1: Les ailes qui s'ouvrent
1.Scenes 1-3		4:54
2.Scene 4		3:59
3.Scene 5		1:32
4.Scene 6		4:24
5.Scene 7		6:25
6.Scene 8		4:27
Act 2: Les ailes qui battent
7.Scene 1		2:43
8.Scene 2		5:47
9.Scene 3		5:56

CD 2: Honegger & Ibert: L'Aiglon

Act 3: Les ailes meurtries
1.Scene 1		1:15
2.Ballet		9:01
3.Scene 2		3:15
4.Scene 3		4:57
5.Scenes 4-5		3:18
6.Scenes 6-7		4:07
Act 4: Les ailes brisées
7.Scenes 1-4		13:33
Act 5: Les ailes fermées
8.Scene 1		12:53

Anne-Catherine Gillet (sop) L’Aiglon
Marc Barrard (bar) Flambeau
Étienne Dupuis (bar) Metternich
Philippe Sly (bar) Marmont
Pascal Charbonneau (ten) Military Attaché
Isaiah Bell (ten) Gentz
Tyler Duncan (bar) Prokesch
Jean-Michel Richer (ten) Sedlinsky
Hélène Guilmette (sop) Therese
Marie-Nicole Lemieux (cont) Marie-Louise
Julie Boulianne (mez) Fanny Elssler
Kimy McLaren (sop) Comtesse Camerata
Montreal Symphony Orchestra Chorus
Montreal Symphony Orchestra
Kent Nagano Conductor


Co-written by Arthur Honegger and Jacques Ibert, L’Aiglon was first performed in Monte Carlo in March 1937. An adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s play of the same name, it deals with the elusive historical figure of Napoléon II – known in his lifetime as the Duke of Reichstadt and posthumously as ‘the Little Eagle’ – who, following his father’s abdication, was taken into the custody of his mother, Marie-Louise of Austria, and kept a virtual prisoner at the Habsburg court. He died, aged only 21, in 1832, but while he lived, all Europe waited, in anticipation and terror, to see if he would attempt to claim his imperial title.

Rostand’s play was written in 1900 as a travesti vehicle for Sarah Bernhardt, following her success in Hamlet the previous year, and self-consciously echoes Shakespeare in its examination of the relationship between volition and action. The Duke – drawn to Napoleonic idealism but trapped by Metternich’s sinister Realpolitik – dreams hopelessly of the France he will neither see again nor rule, though his forceful imagination gradually colours the lives of all those round him. In the climactic scene, he narrates the history of the battle of Wagram with such intensity that the old soldier Flambeau, fatally injured in a futile attempt to help the Duke escape, believes he is dying a hero’s death on the battlefield.

At the time of the opera’s premiere, the two composers kept teasingly quiet about who had written what. We now know, however, that Ibert composed Acts 1 and 5 and the Act 3 ballet, while Honegger undertook the rest. The pervasive mood is one of bittersweet nostalgia. Vocal writing and characterisation are remarkably consistent, but we can detect subtle differences elsewhere. Ibert’s contribution is characteristically refined and svelte. Honegger’s dissonances have greater bite, and his brass-writing is more elaborate and prominent. The booklet-notes make much of the opera as an expression of French nationalism in the face of the rise of Nazism, and it was indeed dropped from the repertoire during the Occupation, when Ibert’s music was proscribed. But the work is neither simplistic nor propagandist. Austrian culture was comparably under threat in 1937 and Ibert’s glorious waltzes evoke 19th-century Vienna even as they mourn its passing.

Of late there has been something of a revival of interest in the piece, with important stagings in Marseilles and Lausanne in 2004 and 2013 respectively. Decca’s recording was made in Montreal, during the series of concert performances that marked its Canadian premiere in March last year. Conducted with care and palpable affection by Kent Nagano, it boasts a fine, mostly francophone ensemble cast, with not a weak link anywhere. At its centre, in a trouser role that is a gift for a lyric soprano, is Anne-Catherine Gillet’s Duke, bright in tone and wonderfully subtle in her response to the complexities of both text and character. Marc Barrard is the touchingly funny Flambeau, while Etienne Dupuis makes Metternich all the more sinister by singing his music so beautifully. The orchestral sound is gorgeous, as is the recording itself, and only the occasional distant cough reminds us that it was made live. ---Tim Ashley,


The notes to this Decca release offer various theories for the almost total disappearance of this hugely listenable 1937 opera, beginning with the fact that its nationalistic French theme made it unperformable for several years soon after its premier. Here's one more theory: classical music listeners are invested in the idea of the solitary composer offering an individual creation to the world, and collaborative works, few and very far between, somehow do not compute. L'Aiglon (the "little eagle" was the ill-fated Napoleon II, son of Napoleon Bonaparte) was written by Arthur Honegger and Jacques Ibert, with roughly equal proportions contributed by each composer and close collaboration on the dynamic third act. Part of the appeal of the score is that it places the breezy, melodic content of French neoclassicism in a larger stylistic context, and does so in a convincing way. The opera is based on a play by none other than Edmond Rostand of Cyrano de Bergerac fame, and it has one of the most convincing libretti of any opera of the 20th century. The action takes place as the young Napoleon, who grew up in Austria and was influenced by his surroundings there, becomes the point man in a conspiracy to restore him to power in France after Bonaparte's defeat. The plot unfolds against the splendor of life at a Habsburg court, and Ibert is deployed in the waltzes and the other lighter music (sample the opening scenes of Act III, the first tracks on the second CD), while the more Wagnerian Honegger takes the meatier dramatic content such as the remarkable dreamlike fourth act as the young Aiglon recalls Bonaparte's exploits at the Battle of Wagram in 1809. No other work has been shaped in exactly this way, and the results are compelling. So too are the performances here. The role of L'Aiglon is given to a soprano, perhaps in recognition of the fact that the role was played by Sarah Bernhardt in the stage production, and Belgian soprano Anne-Catherine Gillet and the rest of the partly French-Canadian cast in this live Montreal performance excel and throw themselves into the action. But the star of the show is the conductor Kent Nagano, not French at all but resident in Montreal long enough to have shaped the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal into his own instrument. The score has a real lightness in his hands, and it moves. Highly recommended, and a real find for lovers of French opera. ---James Manheim, AllMusic Review

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]]> (bluesever) Honegger Arthur Wed, 17 Oct 2018 09:35:51 +0000
Honegger – Orchestral Works (Plasson) [1993] Honegger – Orchestral Works (Plasson) [1993]

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1	 Prélude pour "La Tempête" de Shakespeare 5:05
2	 Pastorale d'été--Poème symphonique 9:01
3	 Horace victorieux--Symphonie mimée pour orchestre 19:42
4	 Pacific 231--Mouvement symphonique No. 1 6:30
5	 Rugby--Mouvement symphonique No. 2 7:54
6	 Mermoz--Suite No. 1 "La Traversée des Andes" 8:56
7	 Mermoz--Suite No. 2 "Le Vol sur l'Atlantique" 7:57

Toulouse Capitole Orchestra
Michel Plasson – conductor


I suppose it is understandable that Honegger is not a very well-known or often-played composer, due to the difficulty of his compositions, but it is unfortunate that these pieces aren't more well known amongst the general classical community. The works here are difficult to digest; they are densely packed with ideas that take time and repeated listening to organize, have no real discernible traditional structure, often seem to have more orchestral "effects" than substance, do not have traditionally developed themes, and contain quite a lot of dissonance. The disc can be hard to sit through at once; these pieces were not meant to be heard as a whole and they do not function that way--they were written at different times for different mediums and purposes, and since they all exist as self-contained entities the only thing that helps is the strategic choosing and placing of the order of works by the conductor. The disc is very skillfully put together in that sense, beginning with a short piece that was written as a prelude, putting the most serious, weighty piece in the center, and ending with majestic film music, filling in the gaps with shorter symphonic poems.

Pastorale d'été This piece was my first exposure to the music of Arthur Honegger; I played it as a college student in my chamber orchestra. I am very grateful to my conductor at the time for picking this piece, as I would never have found a reason to pick up any works by Honegger in my life. It certainly lives up to its name, and sounds as pastoral as any work could--it definitely shares some kinship with Beethoven's 6th symphony in that regard. It does have some wonderful moments of "what the hell is that" with an uptempo middle section that introduce some decidedly non-pastoral, non-thematic rhythmic portions that I guess could be considered dance-like, before Honegger brings us back to a beautiful Swiss country landscape (in my eyes, on a summer night of a full moon).

Horace Victorieux This work is the beast of the disc, clocking in at nearly twenty minutes. It is the work that has taken me the longest to come to appreciate, but it deserves its spot as the centerpiece of this collection. For years I wrote it off as a painfully uninteresting gallimaufry of ideas that I would suffer through in order to get to the cool piece about the locomotive (nowadays, I don't see why that piece deserves any more attention than the majority of the other pieces here). It was originally conceived to accompany a ballet depicting the story of the battle between the Horatii and Curatii, but Honegger's collaborator passed away before the work could be completed. Honegger nonetheless completed the music and put the piece out on the concert circuit, enjoying a bit of popularity with it. The story can be followed if one desires, but it's really better to just experience the piece as a marvelous creation on its own merits.

It starts with layered blasts of percussion and brass for thirteen seconds before immediately switching to a chorale of shifting false harmonic tones in the strings with a wind accompaniment that drifts and flows like a twisted river. The solo lines and voices move amongst each other without settling on an idea or repeated statement, with wandering counterpoint harmonies trading opportunities to be in the foreground. At six minutes a more structured and forceful fugal statement appears that is again overtaken by a more wistful wind melody which again makes way for the dark fugal material--they try to coexist and end up melting into each other. There are fanfares, battle music, expressive chamber moments, and death represented. The piece is constantly on the move, and Honegger is continuously introducing new ideas and motifs even as others seem to have barely established any solid footing. It moves like a virus that refuses to be quarantined for study. It's brilliant, but at the same time if the listener does not remain focused and engaged, it is easy to grow lost and disinterested.

Mermoz Suites 1 & 2 The disc ends gloriously with these two "symphonic movements" of music distilled from the score to the 1943 Cuny film. It's the most melodic and easy to digest, with the suites sharing the same thematic material and actually developing a nice arch with what could be considered an almost Romantic progression to the sound. Film composers of today could take a lesson from the pages of Honegger's works in being able to write music for a film that can be brought together to make a strong concert piece. Listening to these two movements, there's no need to have a film in front of you at all, the music is so descriptive and alive, and is not at all secondary to whatever could be happening on a screen.

The Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse led by Michel Plasson along with the engineers of the recording do a remarkable job of cleanly tackling and bringing out the voices in the hardest rhythmic and contrapuntal passages, and all of the virtuosic elements for each voice show no signs of hesitation or weakness, with the single standout "whoopsie" exception in the Mermoz Suite No. 2 at the 5:15 mark, where the piccolo comes down off of a group rising scale before the rest, which in turn helps a lone string player miscount and come in early at the next entrance. It's very small, though I wonder, given the excellence of the rest of the performance, how it is that that was allowed to remain in the recording. It is also a testament to how in touch the players in this symphony are with each other.

The Prelude to Shakespeare's Tempest, Pacific 231, and Rugby are also equally amazing works, with Pacific 231, from what I can see regarding Honegger's available discography, being the most popular of his pieces. ---

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]]> (bluesever) Honegger Arthur Tue, 28 Dec 2010 11:16:44 +0000
Honegger – String Quartets; Cello Concerto (2000) Honegger – String Quartets; Cello Concerto (2000)

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String Quartet No. 1 in C minor, H. 152
I. Appassionato
II. Adagio
III. Allegro

String Quartet No. 2 in D major, H. 103
I. Allegro
II. Adagio
III. Allegro marcato

String Quartet No. 3 in E major, H. 114
I. Allegro
II. Adagio
III. Allegro

Cello Concerto in C major, H. 72
I. Andante
II. Lento
III. Allegro marcato

Erato String Quartet

Mstislav Rostropovich (Cello)
London Symphony Orchestra
Kent Nagano (Conductor)


Established foremost in the musical community for his orchestral, symphonic and vocal/oratorio output, it seems hardly surprising, then, that these three string quartets of Arthur Honegger (1892-1955) have been notoriously neglected. Triggering this neglect might be the fact that Honegger chose to write very few chamber works, rather disengaging from the form to concentrate on larger venues.

That said, I must admit that the composer might have done himself, and us, a disservice. As the crux of his chamber output, the three extant quartets are infinitely fascinating and formidable, each tempered by the extraordinary use of an ever-evolving musical vocabulary.

The earliest, Quartet for Strings No. 1 (1917), already shows Honegger's penchant for balancing dissonance, chromaticism and melody in a way that creates a delightful frisson. Case-in-point: The juxtapositioning of the very Faure-like opening Appassionato and the second movement Adagio, with its solemn cello recitative and continuous lyrical string meanderings. There is an appealing and overt romanticism here not found in the quartets that follow two decades later.

Quartet for Strings No.'s 2 (1936) and 3 (1937) are more distinctly modernistic, the allegros propulsive and discordant, thematic material veering sharply away from melodic involvement. Here we enter the mainstreams of Bartok, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Remarkable, however, are the somber and thought-provoking adagio movements that form the true compositional cores.

Performed with the kind of simpatico and idiomatic panache necessary to reveal these "Beethovenian underproducts," as Honegger called his three quartets, to the fullest possible measure, the Erato ensemble succeeds completely. The sound they produce has been captured intimately and beautifully. ---Melvyn M. Sobel,


Of the three concertante works that Honegger composed, this is the only one without a diminutive in the title. Ironically, it is one of Honegger's most light-hearted, even amusing scores. Considering that it is written in Honegger's most 'popular' style, its' neglect is incomprehensible.

It is tuneful and rhythmically vital.The soloist is given dramatic moments and showy displays. He croons some lovely melodies, sings a swinging little ditty, declaims passionately, but always maintains dignity. Honegger's writing for string instruments tended to be rather conservative. There is hardly a harmonic sounded nor a pizzicato plucked. The orchestration is transparent yet full blooded. The use of muted brass emphasizes the frequent hints of jazz sonorities.

The balance between soloist and orchestra, always a problem in the Cello Concerto, is achieved by means of having more dialogue than argument between the participants. This also increases the geniality of the music, which does not wrestle with larger philosophical questions as is often the case in Honegger's music. In places like the jazzy middle section of the work, Honegger gives the cello a stately melody while the orchestra interjects comments of an almost comical nature.

After World War I, Honegger was a member of "Les Six" a group whose spokesman Jean Cocteau called for a return to the French music hall and away from the dominance of Richard Wagner's music. Honegger rarely followed that edict, but in this concerto he does allow the influences of the music hall to be heard.

It is so concise that the listener might easily regret that the Concerto doesn't last much longer.

Composed in 1929, it was premiered by, and dedicated to Maurice Marechal. Serge Koussevitzky led the Boston Symphony Orchestra. ---Eric Goldberg, Rovi

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]]> (bluesever) Honegger Arthur Thu, 21 Jan 2010 21:49:21 +0000