The Film Music of Arthur Hanegger (1892-1955)
Arthur Honegger, one of the greatest of twentieth century composers, made an unrivalled contribution to film music during the course of some thirty years, from his scores for Abel Gance’s La Roue in 1922 and Napoléon in 1926, music that he regarded as his apprentice work, to his last works of this kind in 1951, a total production of some forty film scores. Half of these were written and orchestrated by the composer himself, and the rest in collaboration with his friend Arthur Hoérée, who died in 1986 before he could hear the present recording, with André Jolivet, Maurice Jaubert, Darius Milhaud, Roland-Manuel and Maurice Thiriet, this largely through pressure of time. Nevertheless Honegger’s music for films is a considerable achievement for a composer of such importance. Some of his film scores like Mermoz and Regain were arranged by the composer for concert use.
Honegger, himself a film enthusiast often to be seen on the set during shooting, reveals astonishingly advanced ideas on the function of music in the cinema, his pre-eminence in the field recognised already in 1936 by Kurt London who described him as the true leader of modern film music in France. He regarded the ideal film score as a distinct component in a unified medium, despising clumsy attempts at cartoon synchronization with movement on the screen and looking forward to films that might not so much be supplied with music as inspired by it.
In Honegger’s opinion, cinematic montage differs from musical composition in that, while the latter depends on continuity and logical development, the film relies on contrasts. Music and sound must, therefore, adapt themselves to strengthening and complementing the visual element, while the whole must be an artistic unity, in which the generally visual imagination of the public may be assisted to a greater understanding of the musical message.