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Honegger: Pastorale D'Ete/ Symphony No. 4/ Une Cantate De Noel (Lpo: LPO-0058) CD


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Biography

Born in Moscow, and son of conductor Mikhail Jurowski, Vladimir Jurowski completed the first part of his musical studies in his native town at the Music College of the Moscow Conservatory. In 1990 he relocated with his family to Germany where he continued his studies at High Schools of Music in Dresden and in Berlin, studying conducting with Rolf Reuter and vocal coaching with Semion Skigin. ... Read more in Amazon's Vladimir Jurowski Store

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Product details

  • Conductor: Jurowski
  • Composer: Honegger
  • Audio CD (31 Oct. 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Lpo
  • ASIN: B005OZDXY6
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 73,066 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Pastorale dété (Summer Pastoral) - Various Performers
2. Symphony No. 4 (Deliciae Basilienses) - Various Performers
3. Une Cantate de Noël (A Christmas Cantata) - Various Performers

Product Description

CD Description

Today the Swiss-born composer Arthur Honegger is often remembered as a member of Les Six that embodiment of 1920s Parisian modernism. But far from rejecting late Romantic expression, Honegger embraced it. In these live concert recordings, Vladimir Jurowski conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra in three of Honeggers most lyrical works: the dreamy Pastorale dété, the nostalgic Fourth Symphony, subtitled The Delights of Basel in remembrance of the sanctuary offered by the Swiss city during the war, and his final composition, the reflective and heartfelt Cantate de Noël. Vladimir Jurowski became the London Philharmonic Orchestras twelfth Principal Conductor in September 2007 and this CD is the latest in his ever-growing catalogue with the LPO on its own label, adding to his recent critically acclaimed recordings of Mahler Symphony No. 2, Brahms Symphonies 1 & 2 and Holsts Planets .

Review

Of course, anything conducted by Vladimir Jurowski is worth hearing. His galvanising effect on the band whose Principal Conductor he will shortly become was evident again here, notably in the beguiling, brushed-velvet textures he conjured in Honeggers Pastoral dété and in an immaculate ensemble and textural clarity everywhere. --Richard Morrison, The Times, March 2007

Full of charm and tactile invention,vivdly realised in this live recording. --The Times,29/10/11

The inclusion of the Une Cantate de Noël on LPO Live's Honegger disc has ensured a release clearly aimed at the seasonal market. Its companion pieces are rather summery, however, and it's ultimately nostalgia that links all three works. Pastorale d'Eté depicts a country landscape under shimmering heat. The problematic Fourth Symphony, swivelling inconsequentially between neoclassical austerity and tentative lyricism, was written in the aftermath of the second world war and attempts to escape the gloomy mood of its times by evoking earlier happiness in Basel. The Cantata itself Honegger's last work, composed when he was terminally ill glances longingly and tenderly at ideas of new beginnings before gradually retreating towards its final, spiritually ambiguous silence. *** --Guardian.co.uk, Thursday 10 November 2011

Paul Sacher, the Swiss music patron who died in 1999, often said his compatriot Arthur Honegger's time would come. Maybe that time is now: this disc comes on top of Marin Alsop's Joan of Arc project on both sides of the Atlantic. Honegger (1892-1955) never lacked champions Karajan and Jansons recorded the Third Symphony and here we have Jurowski and the LPO in music that shows a more seductive side than the dark depths of the wartime symphony and the Joan oratorio. All three works on this unexpectedly satisfying CD communicate a joie de vivre without ever sounding lightweight. The jaunty Symphony No 4 is performed with the wit and subtlety it deserves, bringing out the song-like character of its three movements. Pastorale d été is a dreamy orchestral summerscape, Une Cantate de Noël a radiant choral celebration of the human and the divine. **** --Financial Times 18/11/11

The playing is Faultless. Performance **** Recording ***(**)(Pastorale D'ete &No.4) --BBC Music Magazine,Christmas'11

The other two Honegger works on this CD ( Pastorale d été and Symphony No 4) are an acquired taste, but Une Cantate de Noël is impressively voiced. The music moves from contemplative ritual to a cunningly crafted medley of Christmas melodies and an ending of quiet serenity. --Sunday Telegraph,11/12/11

The playing is Faultless. Performance **** Recording ***(**)(Pastorale D'ete &No.4) --BBC Music Magazine,Christmas'11

Serge Baudo's incisively Stavinskian recordings have stood the test of time well,though there is no denying either the greater warmth and presence of Jurowski's performances or the more all-round perspective of the sound.Succinctly informative annotations enhance a release especially recommended to those who have previously resisted Honegger,believing him to be overly dry or dour figure.The music-making here avowedly proves otherwise. --IRR,Jan'12

The playing is Faultless. Performance **** Recording ***(**)(Pastorale D'ete &No.4) --BBC Music Magazine,Christmas'11

crafted with impeccable, watchmaker precision in terms of some interesting rhythmic syncopations. --Gramophone,Feb'12

The playing is Faultless. Performance **** Recording ***(**)(Pastorale D'ete &No.4) --BBC Music Magazine,Christmas'11

Pleasing performances of some pleasing and unfamiliar music. Recommended to beachcombers (and anyone else who's curious). **** --Classic fm Magazine.Mar'12

The playing is Faultless. Performance **** Recording ***(**)(Pastorale D'ete &No.4) --BBC Music Magazine,Christmas'11

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Having actually sung this work several years ago ,i have wanted a copy for some time,and this recording has met my expectations pretty closely.
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I didn't know this composer. And I didn't know his music. Honegger, to me, is the man of the DDR. But this is something completely different from another man. A nice cd. I enjoyed the three pieces a lot. A good buy.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Santa Fe Listener on 8 Nov. 2011
Format: Audio CD
This CD suggests an attempt at rehabilitation. Although Swiss by parentage, Honegger was born in France and holds his place there as a member of Les Six, while elsewhere he is mostly forgotten. His two dramatic oratorios, King Davd and Joan of Arc at the Stake, still had currency when I was young; they manage to be religious, popsy, and lurid all at once. Two fellow members of Les Six, Poulenc and Milhaud, Honegger's modernism wasn't shy of popular culture, and the last toehold he has in the standard repertoire is probably Pacific 231, which depicts a modern locomotive; Honegger had another tone poem dedicated to rugby.

To bring him closer to English tastes, Vladimir Jurowski has cannily chosen diffuse, easy-listen pastoral music that will remind English audiences of familiar sounds from Delius and that ilk. French modernism tended toward the breezy as well, another kind of easy-listen sound to be found in the nostalgic Sym. #4. Unless you were a real Honegger devotee, it would be hard not to believe that these works aren't generically like Roussel, Ibert, or Jolivet. So it's surprising to go to the London Phil's website and listen to a clip of Jurowski placing Honegger on much the same level as Stravinsky; his defense is eloquent but seems misplaced to me.

The postwar era and the threat of the Bomb turned the composer somber, and in addition he knew he was dying when he composed the grave, soul-searching Cantate de Noel in 1953, surely the most cheerless Christmas music I can imagine (it begins in the bowels of the orchestra with a De prfundis). We aren't gamboling in pastures here; the composer draws out some searing, harmonically jagged passages of souls pleading for release from suffering.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Jaunty, accessible, sombre, spiritual Honegger 13 Dec. 2011
By Dean Frey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This new disc fom the LPO illustrates Honegger's journey from his modernist period as a member of Les Six in 1920s Paris to his less ironic and more expressive maturity in the 1940s and 50s. The earliest work on the disc, the 1920 Pastorale d'Ete, is a sometimes jaunty and jazzy trip into the countryside. It has a pastoral feel, but it's often slightly off-centre. This is a fascinating, and for me immensely appealing, seven minutes of music.

Honegger, like Villa-Lobos who took a similar journey during the same years, was swimming upstream in the post-WWII period. His 4th Symphony was designed to be just the opposite of the fashionable music of the day: accessible and expressive. In 1946 Honegger wanted to give his audience, and perhaps himself, some relief from the austerities of the post-war world. This music might have seemed old-fashioned and even banal at the time, but I appreciate its directness and simplicity.

Honegger's final composition is the 1953 Christmas Cantata, which was written during his final illness. The first movement is very dark - sombre seems too light a word for the oppressive mood Honegger creates. But of course darkness is part of many Christmas stories, from the Massacre of the Innocents to the depressing first draft of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. When Honegger lets the light in, the effect is magical. This is deeply spiritual music, well-crafted and very moving.

So much credit for this excellent disc goes to the conductor Vladimir Jurowski. As he explains at the LPO website, he believes that Honegger deserves a much higher reputation than his present quite modest ranking. Jurowski seems to have communicated this passion to the musicians who performed at the Royal Festival and Queen Elizabeth Hall concerts recorded for this CD. And he's convinced me!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The conductor makes it work. A comparative perspective on Jurowski's highly exceptionable, but ultimately convincing Honegger 4 Aug. 2013
By Discophage - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Big Names. At least, they have the merit, when they tackle unusual repertoire, of attracting to the neglected composer and work a whole new segment of the public, who wouldn't have bothered with interpreters more associated with them but less glamorous and popular. It happened with Karajan when he started recording Mahler in 1973 and introduced to the beauties of the Adagietto European audiences for whom Bernstein was Broadway defaming High Art and Solti could be countenanced only in Wagner's Ring. And judging from the number of reviews posted under Karajan's 1969 recording of Honegger's Second and Third Symphony (and the scarcity of reviews under the classic recordings of Munch, Ansermet, Mravinsky or Baudo, and all the more recent ones of Plason, Dutoit, Järvi, Jansons, Yuasa - the list is not limitative), it happens still with the French/Swiss composer (Honegger: Symphony No. 2 for String Orchestra and Trumpet; Symphony No. 3 "Liturgique" / Stravinsky: Concerto in D for String Orchestra). And it seems to have happened again with Honegger and Jurowski. It is permissible to consider that the many reviews that this entry has benefited were occasioned more by the conductor's rising aura than by a particular interest for the composer and the works here recorded - as witnessed, again, by the paucity of reviews published under the competing recordings.

The risk, of course, is that, tackling a repertoire totally unfamiliar even to him, the Big Name will have no idea of the style, give a badly distorted view of the work(s) and lead his new audience astray - some leveled the criticism at Karajan's Mahler (I don't agree). It can be either a case of "you like it? Then you are not liking the composer's music, but a bad misrepresentation of it", or one of "you don't like the music? Don't blame it on the composer!" On the other hand Karajan's Honegger received the near-universal accolades - and it certainly deserved them, although it wasn't pointed out enough how personal an approach it was, straying from most or all precedents. Precisely because they have "no idea of the style" and are bound to no "traditions" or precedents, the "Big Names" can bring illuminating touches to the music.

In that respect, Jurowski's Honegger Fourth Symphony is certainly one of a kind and like no-one else's, bound to no previous tradition and not even to the score's explicit indications. In the first movement Jurowski is, and by a wide margin, the swiftest version ever recorded, both in the "slow" introduction (compare his 1:24 to Munch's 1:32, Ansermet's 1:36, both very close to the composer's metronome indication, or Plasson's extreme 1:55 - product links in the comments section) and in the Allegro proper, for a movement TT of 10:49, to Lopez-Cobos' 11:06, Baudo's 11:20, Munch's 11:22, Ansermet's 11:25 and Plasson's 13:10. And it might have been more extreme, but Jurowski's is also one of those conductors (like Munch and Plasson, but unlike Baudo and Ansermet) who like to seize every opportunity to slow down considerably and play accordion with tempo.

In fact, there is much in Jurowski's conducting that could and should have given me cause for exception. Not so much the tempi in themselves (although there is not much mystery - "lento e misterioso" is Honegger's character indication - in such a swift introduction), as in his inobservance of Honegger's sometimes subtle and sometimes very plain tempo relationships in the Allegro, and first between the normal "fast" and the slight relaxation of it that occurs at various points, sometimes in apparent contradiction with the biting character of the music (at 2:47 for instance). Like Munch, Jurowski adopts a brisk Allegro and sticks to it. If you want to hear Honegger as written on the score, listen to Ansermet.

On the other hand, like Munch again, he applies a big and un-indicated slowdown when comes the sonata form's secondary and pastoral theme at 3:38, putting paid to the shift of tempo that occurs a few bars later, at 4:00, giving you the impression of stepping on the gas pedal, when Honegger's instruction is for the tempo to be actually slower. And there are other moments where Honegger does write "rit." or "calando" (like the section starting at 4:23), where Jurowski (like Munch or Plasson) almost grinds to a halt before moving back to the Allegro tempo. With Munch and Plasson, I've found that such playing stop and go went against the forward flow and the cogency of Honegger's architecture. Baudo's and Lopez-Cobos' greater restraint (or lesser flexibility) seemed much preferable.

Also, with his swift tempo in the introduction, Jurowski is totally inconsistent when the same returns at 8:56 for the movement's coda, which he now paces much slower, a real "lento e misterioso". Such blatant disregard for the absolutely obvious is unencountered in any other version I've heard.

But then: I guess "Big Names" are also those who make their choices, however exceptionable they may be, seem entirely convincing. After numerous hearings of numerous versions of the Fourth Symphony, I still find its first movement one of Honegger's most elusive compositions and one of the hardest to get "right", but Jurowski's approach brings it a freshness, a playfulness that I had not encountered before, to which his brisk pacing and rhapsodic flexibility in the (not so) slow intro in fact contribute. Honegger was a member of "Les Six" only by dint of Cocteau's publicity gig. Stylistically, emotionally (other maybe than in his operettas, his Piano Concertino and his late Concerto da Camera for Flute and Clarinet), he never partook of the insouciant and fluffy spirit of "Paris Gay Paris", his most typical works - Pacific, Rugby, Mouvement Symphonique No. 3, his other symphonies, Danse des Morts, Joan at the Stake and I am leaving many aside - were much more angular, dissonant, angry than that. But in Jurowski's first movement, more than in any other version, you can hear the spirit of Les Six. Add that Jurowski's sonics are among the best I've heard, with a vividness, clarity and transparency of textures that creates a perfect balance between strings and winds and let you hear perfectly the circulation of the melodies through the different orchestral sections and within each section - an essential feature to get the movement "right" - and lend sparkling brilliance to the "Chinese bells" passage at 5:31.

The two other movements are less problematic, and more "Honeggerian" in their overall grim and biting character (relieved by rays of light, represented by quotations of typical Basel folk- or quasi folk songs), but again Jurowski has a unique and convincing take on them. The second movement is, in part, one of Honegger's typical funeral marches, and many, by playing it at a slower tempo than Honegger's relatively swift metronome, have underlined that funeral character. But even when playing at Honegger's tempo (like Ansermet), almost all have also thickened the string textures and made heavy the articulation of the basso quasi-passacaglia motive that opens the movement and runs through it. The only versions to play it with a touch more bite were Baudo and Lopez-Cobos, but compared to Jurowski (who, like Ansermet, paces it close to Honegger's indication, e.g. faster than usual), they too seem heavy, thick and sluggish. Jurowski invests the music with unprecedented and almost grim bite, even anger. The Finale has many traits of a sarcastic Mahler-like scherzo, and here Jurowski's brisk pacing, significantly faster than the (deliberate) tempo of Honegger, does have some precedent in Munch, although he one-ups Munch in breathless urgency, for the fastest running Finale I've encountered. However effective the approach, the one drawback I've found with Munch is that it is the easy way to effect, compared to the more deliberate pacing of Honegger and everyone else. But with Jurowski, it is entirely consistent with the first two movements and concludes brilliantly a very personal view that the conductor succeeds in making a very convincing one.

There are many definitions of what makes "a great conductor", and I am rarely satisfied with any, because none give a complete view: a great conductor can be many different things. But a great conductor is one who has the ability to convince you of an interpretation that you should have had every reason to dislike. The early symphonic poem "Pastorale d'été" is one of Honegger's most atmospheric pieces, and his most "Debussiste". Until hearing Jurowski, I had preferred the versions that took their time to unfold the summer and pastoral atmosphere of the outer sections, and disliked those - like Martinon or Vasary, and even worse the composer himself, conducting his own composition in 1929 - who pressed and sounded metronomic. But if they "pressed", how can I describe what Jurowski does - he races. Playing the beginning of all these versions, expansive, swift and Jurowski, back to back, is startling. But again he makes it work beautifully on his own terms, and despite (or because of?) the brisk tempo his Pastorale felt wonderfully atmospheric. It has to do with the sumptuous sonics, both silky and affording great clarity (in no other version can the basses and inner voices be heard so clearly, but without any sense of artificial spotlighting) and with the naturalness of the phrasings: the inner workings may be urgent, but the melodies soar over a long span. Turns out that, for all his urgency, Jurowski is also the closest to Honegger's metronome indication, and besides the atmosphere, it brings also a dramatic tension that is absent from all the others. Jurowski's summer is a season of passionate love. Considering that Jurowski, the fastest running version I've encountered, plays in 7:10, and that Honegger took it in 7:45, funny to see that the score indicates an estimated duration of 6 ½ minutes (the longest version I know, by Henry Vachey on Calliope, takes 9:11). Listening to Jurowski entailed a number of effects: he made me understand the value of not over-milking the sultry atmosphere of "Pastorale d'été", made me find virtues to Vasary (the composer and Martinon still feel too metronomic and unatmospheric, and Martinon's instruments are artificially spotlighted) and, returning then to the slower versions of Scherchen, Baudo or Luisi, he almost made them feel impossibly languid and sluggish, coyote sitting on the cactus and too tired to move. That said, "Pastorale" is such a beautiful piece that it works in widely different approaches. A few days after being bowled over by Jurowski, I listened to the improbable Henry Vachey leading the nth-tier Douai Symphony Orchestra: the most spacious versions of all, lazy summer day, feel like just lying there on the grass listening to the birds sing, beautifully executed, beautiful atmosphere. I guess I like my Pastorale to be extreme.

Pastorale and Symphony No. 4 were recorded live on 28 March 2007 and A Christmas Cantata two and a half years later, on 5 December 2009, and the three compositions united give a sample statistically significant enough to infer that urgent tempi are not just an approach that Jurowski found suited to the two pastoral symphonic works, but perhaps a general trademark of his interpretive style (as they were with Heifetz and Toscanini), for he does it again with the Cantata. Once again, at 21:36, it is, and by a wide margin, the fastest running version ever encountered. Until then the brackets had been the classic Ansermet at 23:21 (Symphonies 2 & 4 / Une Cantate Noel) and Martin Neary's very spacious 25:27 (I can't find the original EMI release listed on this website, but it has been reissued on Berlioz: L'enfance Du Christ / Honegger: Christmas Cantata / Poulenc: Four Motets). Past the Largo introduction, Jurowski is also, section by section, the most constantly urgent of all versions. It lends great dramatic impact to the first part, the De Profundis lament, and the ensuing "O Viens Emmanuel" cry of the chorus, without depriving the Christmas carols of their naïve and touching child-like simplicity. No one has invested the passage starting track 5 at 5:30 with so much breathless fury, and it sounds great. The sonics are fine, letting you hear many orchestral details, although there were moments where I wished for a touch more, more character, more bite and more impact. The concluding Laudate dominum chorale, which opens track 7, is brisker than Ansermet's but less energetic and powerful, because the chorus more distant and less impactful (but Decca's sonics let many orchestral details get covered).

Not that all is perfect in this version. Many versions of A Christmas Cantata have stumbled on an inadequate baritone, and Jurowski's Christopher Maltman is insufferably wobbly, giving a sentimental feeling to his lines on the coming of Christ that is really not needed - very few here come to the ankle of Ansermet's affecting Pierre Mollet, Pelleas singing Christmas -, and the solo child singing the one-bar line Laudate Dominum track 6 at 5:40, other than his English diphthongs, is wobbly and sounds too mature to be truly touching. Other than the urgent tempi, Jurowski displays some original but dangerous interpretive touches, like the Gloria chorus track 6 at 1:09 sung very pianissimo (the score gives no indication of dynamic level there): very beautiful, but sending the florid melisma of the sopranos on the threshold of inaudibility, and likewise as the music develops into an intermingling of various Christmas carols, between 3:22 and 5:10, where each part is sung so softly at times that the words are reduced to a mere color, an (angelic?) halo of sound. Not that it is important, but, like Ansermet, Jurowski doesn't follow Honegger's instruction to play the orchestral transition at 6:21 track 5 at twice the previous tempo. It is defensible that way too, lending the music an imposing grandeur absent from the "original".

I wouldn't call this the best or the ultimate Christmas Cantata - Ansermet, although the Decca sonics favor the chorus and let many orchestral details get covered, remains the version of reference, and those of Michel Corboz (Arthur Honegger - Christmas Cantata/Une Cantate De Noel, Dance of Death/La Danse des morts (Erato)), Thierry Fischer (Une Cantate De Noel Horace Victorieux) and, in a chamber approach, Martin Neary (see link above), offer excellent alternatives - but it doesn't give a distorted picture either, and nobody will go wrong with it. In fact, none of Jurowski's Honegger can be called "the best" or "the ultimate". It offers better than that: a very personal and unique view that the conductor succeeds in making entirely convincing. But those readings deserve to be complemented with other, more "classic" approaches like those of Ansermet - or to complement them.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Jurowski makes a case for remembering Honegger 15 Nov. 2011
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This CD suggests an attempt at rehabilitation. Although Swiss by parentage, Honegger was born in France and holds his place there as a member of Les Six, while elsewhere he is mostly forgotten. His two dramatic oratorios, King Davd and Joan of Arc at the Stake, still had currency when I was young; they manage to be religious, popsy, and lurid all at once. Two fellow members of Les Six, Poulenc and Milhaud, Honegger's modernism wasn't shy of popular culture, and the last toehold he has in the standard repertoire is probably Pacific 231, which depicts a modern locomotive; Honegger had another tone poem dedicated to rugby.

To bring him closer to English tastes, Vladimir Jurowski has cannily chosen diffuse, easy-listen pastoral music that will remind English audiences of familiar sounds from Delius and that ilk. French modernism tended toward the breezy as well, another kind of easy-listen sound to be found in the nostalgic Sym. #4. Unless you were a real Honegger devotee, it would be hard not to believe that these works aren't generically like Roussel, Ibert, or Jolivet. So it's surprising to go to the London Phil's website and listen to a clip of Jurowski placing Honegger on much the same level as Stravinsky; his defense is eloquent but seems misplaced to me.

The postwar era and the threat of the Bomb turned the composer somber, and in addition he knew he was dying when he composed the grave, soul-searching Cantate de Noel in 1953, surely the most cheerless Christmas music I can imagine (it begins in the bowels of the orchestra with a De prfundis). We aren't gamboling in pastures here; the composer draws out some searing, harmonically jagged passages of souls pleading for release from suffering. The work calls for large forces, including an organ and children's chorus as well as a mixed chorus and baritone soloist. The three-part structure heads from darkness toward the light, ending with a Laudate Dominum (in that regard it resembles Stravinsky's Sym. of Psalms, also in three parts, that ends in a Laudate Dominum). Christmas carols do enter the musical texture, which for me makes for a queasy mixture of the sentimental and the agonized. But then, I have much the same reaction to Honegger's religious oratorios.

Jurowski clearly believes in this music and delivers it very well, as do all the forces, orchestral and choral, that are involved. The sound is excellent and captures the spatial placement of various voices. We don't get many new Honegger releases to add to classic ones from Markevitch, Bernstein, and Karajan, among others who championed his work. Jurowski joins the catalog at the top level.
Noël tracks: unconventional, modern composition 16 Nov. 2014
By Horace - Published on Amazon.com
I am not familiar with this composer and this recording is the first example of his music I've heard. This review is for the poor schmuck who is looking for classical Christmas music and sees "Une cantate de Noël"; that was me. The first Noël piece in particular is mostly not traditional-sounding Christmas music. The composition is from the modern era. Uncomfortable/unsettling track. Sometimes trichords are present. If you are very burnt out on trad. Christmas music or want to shake things up at the family gathering, though, this song could be the trick. I was hoping for something a little more Menotti! The second and third Noël tracks are much more easy-listening: a potpourri of traditional Christmas songs, i.e., "Es ist ein Ros entsprungen" and "Silent Night."
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
More than a one-hit wonder 22 Dec. 2011
By Digital Chips - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Swiss composer Arthur Honegger is basically known for two things: being a member of "Les Six," and writing Pacific 2-3-1. This release goes a long way towards changing that shallow impression for the better. Arthur Honegger was a consummate craftsman, writing music that was impressionistic, lyrical, full of rich harmonies, and sounded like no one else.

The album opens with Honegger's tone poem Pastorale d'ete. Composed on holiday in the Swiss alps, this short work is a wonderful sonic postcard from and makes a great opener for the program.

Symphony No. 4, written just after the end of the Second World War, is an exuberant work. Honegger incorporates two Swiss folk songs into the composition, which provide some of the thematic material Honegger rigorously develops. Although this is a light-hearted work, it's by no means a light one. While pleasant-sounding on the surface, the structure and depth of the composition reward careful and repeated listening.

Une Cantate de Noel was Honegger's final completed composition, written while he was terminally ill. Although it features several familiar Christmas carols artfully woven together, this is no treacly songs-of-the-season medley. The opening is somber and restless, reflecting Honegger's emotional state. As the music progresses, that mood changes, as if the composer is turning from the woes of this world, to the serenity of the next. Une Cantate is a transformative work, moving from darkness to light, returning spiritual depth to well-known (if not shop-warm) carols.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir do an excellent job, turning in remarkably clean and tight live performances. Conductor Vladimir Jurowski exhibits sure command of this material, and clearly has a deep affinity for Honegger's music.

If you're not familiar with Honegger, or - worse yet - only know his one hit, this disc can be a revelation.
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