WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Pacific 231; Rugby; Mouvement symphonique No. 3; Monopartita; Pastorale d’été
PERFORMER: Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra/David Zinman
CATALOGUE NO: 455 352-2
Honegger’s Second Symphony dates from the dark days when he lived through the Nazi occupation of Paris. In a symbolic gesture, the string orchestra is joined in the closing bars by a single trumpet sounding a chorale of hope. But in this performance, the potent final image seems somehow understated, despite the urgent rhythmic activity which has gone before.
In other respects, however, the Zürich orchestra emerges with much credit, and Zinman’s conducting shows a keen understanding of Honegger’s style. For here we encounter an eclectic composer whose achievement was substantial both in quantity and quality, in recordings which sound most pleasing.
The three Mouvements symphoniques all feature on the disc, though curiously they are programmed at random rather than together. Pacific 231, with its pounding rhythms and brazen brass, is captured in vivid sound, as are the strongly characterised companion pieces. The less celebrated Rugby and Mouvement symphonique No. 3, moreover, stake their claims for greater recognition.
The beautiful Pastorale d’été (1920) sounds suitably languorous, a lyrical expansion of a folk song, whereas Monopartita (1951), one of Honegger’s last works, is formed of much sterner stuff. But Zinman does justice to them both, and to the other music recorded here. Terry Barfoot