Arthur Honegger (1892-1955)

When I was in my early twenties I found a book in the library called “I Am a Composer”. It was an English translation of Arthur Honegger’s 1954 book, written in French. This book got me interested in Honegger because of his very original ideas and concepts.

I recently ordered this book and I am now reading it again and, of course, listening to his engaging music as well.

He was a member of the so-called Les Six.

I especially like his Pastorale D’ete. Though I like most everything he has written.

Honegger was of Swiss parentage though he was born in France and lived his entire life in Paris.

His image is on the 20 Franc Swiss note.

Anton Webern (1883-1945)

Musician friends of mine are always surprised when I tell them I am a fan of composer Anton Webern. After all, his music is spiky and to many ears it seems discordant.

Webern was a part of the Second Viennese School (along with Schoenberg and Berg).

I was first introduced to this music when I studied music theory in college. Many consider this music to be “lab coat music” because it is based on the 12 tone theory and applications devised by Arnold Schoenberg, the head of this school of thought.

Webern became one of my favorites because of the economy and brevity of his compositions. The idea of trying to say a lot with a little has always resonated with me.

I fully realize this music is not for everyone and even I don’t listen to it on a daily basis but I maintain a high personal regard for Webern. His life was not an easy one because he stuck to his guns and only wrote the music he felt a passion for.

His life ended abruptly and tragically when he was shot by mistake by an American soldier on the porch of his daughter’s house in Austria just after the war. As he lit a cigar after dinner that evening the flash of the match caught the eye of a rather trigger-happy young man on patrol. Luckily he left us his well-crafted and pointed music.