The Magic of Honegger's Fugue
Deborah Henry

 
“All his life, Honegger remained faithful to a belief in the “magic” properties of music.”
1

“Music possesses a rare power of evocation, and there are any number of words that could be suppressed and replaced by a paragraph of music that everybody would respond to and understand.”2

 

Fugue is an example of such a “paragraph of music”.  In this work Honegger employs the techniques of counterpoint taught to him at the Paris Conservatoire.  However, rather than defining the musical architecture by constructing a tonal plan, he uses contrapuntal and rhythmic structures.  These include elements of symmetry, voice-exchange, rhythmic consistency and motivic manipulation which provide Fugue with its sense of unity and balance.  Camouflaged cadences divide this piece into three equal sections.

 

Fugue melds many of the characteristics of Honegger’s compositional style.  It allows us to hear Honegger at his expressive best in a well-crafted, musically balanced piece in which he demonstrates his clear understanding of the techniques and devices of counterpoint. 

 

It is with the acquisition of these theories of counterpoint and Honegger’s desire to create music with a certain “power of evocation” that we must begin.  It is by understanding his background and its influence that we may recognize the importance of rhythmic and contrapuntal structures to Honegger.  Equipped with this knowledge we now are able to analyse Fugue.  It is not enough, however, only to identify the structural components.  We must be prepared to relate this structure to the music’s “power of evocation” so that we may understand the “magic” of Honegger’s Fugue.

 

Background and Influences

 

In 1917, while in his sixth year of studies at the Paris Conservatoire, twenty-five-year-old Arthur Honegger (1892 – 1955) composed Fugue.  One of two pieces that Honegger composed for the organ, Fugue is dedicated to the Swiss organist Charles-Marie Martin with whom the thirteen-year-old Honegger first studied harmony and counterpoint.  Nevertheless, it is to J.S. Bach that Honegger pays homage.  “But the chief of them, he whom I never cease to take as a model, is old Bach.  In him I find all that I wish ... One might just as easily find Bach at the origins of all my works.”3

 

Yet, Bach was not the only influence on the compositional style of Honegger.  Three twentieth century composers, Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Bartok, also influenced his music in quite specific ways.  Honegger said of these composers that “To my thinking, it is much more Bartok who, with Schoenberg and Stravinsky, is the true representative of this generation’s musical revolution.”4

 

Honegger returned to his homeland of Switzerland between 1915 and 1916 to fulfill his mandatory military obligations.  During this time, he obtained scores of Schoenberg’s compositions and a copy of Schoenberg’s Harmonielehre (Theory of Harmony) that were unavailable in wartime Paris.  Harmonielehre so impressed him, “an extraordinary work and indispensable for the modern composer”5, that he attempted to translate the text into French for his fellow Conservatoire students.

 

It was through the study of the works of Schoenberg that Honegger reconciled the harmonic and contrapuntal dimensions of his compositions.  By the time he was composing Fugue “linear contrapuntal procedures provide[d] the underpinning for [his] harmonic vocabulary, and his pitch language parallels – and is perhaps indebted to – Schoenberg’s prewar works.”6  Sketches of musical ideas from Honegger’s sketchbook illustrate his particular interest in Schoenberg’s chapter entitled “Chords with six or more notes.”  Schoenberg, and consequently Honegger, was experimenting with the forming of twelve-note chords by combining three diminished-sevenths chords.  These types of chords are present at the climax point (mm.27-29) of Fugue.

 

Stravinsky’s contribution to the compositional style of Honegger was that of a “forceful rhythmic language, the use of bitonality, and pitch centricity.”7  Rhythm plays an important role, providing unity, tension and repose in Fugue.  We hear bitonality, an unresolved dominant-seventh chord presented simultaneously with its tonic, at the climax of Fugue.

 

For eight measures (mm.37-44) in the final section of Fugue Honegger has written a series of descending minor thirds.  Geoffrey Spratt and Keith Waters suggest that his “penchant of harmonic motion by thirds, especially minor thirds,”8 and “Honegger’s preoccupation with formal symmetry”9 are due to the influence of Bartok.  (Honegger returned to Paris in 1916 with scores of music by Bartok also.)  Symmetry is an important aspect of Fugue.  The opening section (exposition) is fourteen measures in length as is the closing section.  We may see the middle section as fourteen measures followed by a three-measure link to the final section.

 

We cannot overlook the influence of two of Honegger’s teachers, Andre Gedalge and Charles-Marie Widor, at the Paris Conservatoire and his choice of the violin as his primary instrument for study.  Upon realizing that they had a musically gifted child Honegger’s parents sent him to study the violin.  “This choice of instrument was to be decisive for Honegger’s character as a composer ... his musical thinking, melodic and contrapuntal rather than harmonic, remained that of a violinist.”10

 

Under the guidance of Andre Gedalge, author of Treatise on Fugue, Honegger and his fellow students closely studied the fugues in Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier and “after seven long years of labor [Honegger] was armed with one of the most formidable contrapuntal techniques of all time.”11  Honegger wrote to his parents that

 

 I think this is the place to say something about Gedalge’s importance from the teaching point of view.  Gedalge’s Treatise on Fugue is the most complete work that has ever been written on the subject.  It is used in conservatories all over Europe and all musicians agree that it’s a masterpiece of clarity and logic.  So I couldn’t find anyone better than the author of this treatise to teach me fugue.12

 

From the first class, Gedalge encouraged Honegger, and the other students, to compose and use the techniques that they were learning.

 

While Honegger studied counterpoint with Gedalge, he acquired compositional skills with Widor.  Although in 1916 Gedalge was sixty and Widor seventy-two, both men were tolerant of new ideas and encouraging to the students.  “But he’s [Widor’s] so nice, and afterward always tells you you have a lot of talent.”13  “Honegger never lost his belief in the virtues of the sort of traditional technique he had learned from Gedalge and Widor.”14  Nor did he forget Bach.  “He overtly modelled his own contrapuntal orientation upon Bach’s.”15  “My great model is J. S. Bach.”16 Unlike Bach, however, Honegger rejects the idea of a predetermined tonal scheme.  It is through his use of rhythmic and contrapuntal structures that Honegger achieves unity, contrast, narrative and climax.

 

 

Rhythmic Structures versus Tonal Scheme

 

Keith Waters states that “Rhythmic and contrapuntal structures activate Honegger’s compositions.”17  While Honegger does not reject tonality completely, he does reject the notion of creating a ‘tonal plan’ for that of a ‘rhythmic plan’.  He does not agree that tonality is necessary for music to have a sense of structure.  In his analysis of Honegger’s compositions, Geoffrey Spratt found that a “concern for polyphonic, linear, and contrary-motion principles took primacy over harmonic organization early in Honegger’s compositional career.”18  Contrary-motion (see discussion of ‘contour symmetry’), in general, and voice-exchange, in particular, are evident in Fugue.

 

Throughout his life Honegger advocated music “based on lines and rhythms … Of much greater importance than tonal equilibrium are melodic and especially rhythmic balances.”19  In Fugue, he combined tonal, modal and chromatic elements in the music, not to be deliberately obscure, but as tools of expression.

 

If your melodic and rhythmic design is precise and clear and commands the attention on the ear, the accompanying dissonances will never frighten the listener.  What discourages him is to wallow in a bog of sound from which no shore is visible and in which he swiftly sinks.20

 

Honegger, in Fugue, designed a subject, presented in the exposition, whose melodic elements present a mood of despair.  When the melody is subsequently exquisitely transformed in the final section, the accompanying mood transformation is to one of hope.  The subject also contains a recognizable rhythmic motive that Honegger develops with great success in the middle section.  It is through the manipulation of this rhythmic figure that he creates incredible tension in the middle section that drives to the climactic cadence in m.27.  Rhythmic crescendo and rhythmic dissonance are two more rhythmic devices employed by Honegger to create tension.

 

Keith Waters presents evidence from Honegger’s sketchbooks that show the primacy of rhythmic structure over harmonic structure in Honegger’s compositional process.  Waters describes melodic and rhythmic sketches and compares them with the final version found in the actual composition.

 

A comparison of the two [rhythmic motive and melodic motive] indicates that Honegger retains the overall rhythm and the contour from the sketch to the published version … The example shows Honegger fashioning the overall rhythmic design of the motive first, supplying pitch material that was workable but that required later revision.21

 

Analysis of Honegger’s sketches show that he developed rhythmic design, rhythmic crescendo and rhythmic dissonance, before pitch content.

 

 

Contrapuntal Structures

 

As previously stated, Honegger studied counterpoint at the Paris Conservatoire for seven years (1911-1918).  This course of study, combined with his admiration for the counterpoint of J.S. Bach, served as the foundation for all his compositional life.  “The appeal and fascination with the discipline of counterpoint may be traced even to his earliest works.”22  Appealing to Honegger were the relationships between the outer voices as well as elements of unity, coherence and symmetry found in the techniques of counterpoint.

 

“I attach great importance to musical architecture.”23  Symmetry was a large component of this architecture.  Waters identifies three types of symmetry that are found in the works of Honegger.  They are ‘contour symmetry’, ‘generic interval symmetry’ and ‘specific interval symmetry’.  In Fugue, we are most concerned with contour symmetry.  Contour symmetry “occurs when direction in a single voice is complemented by opposing direction in another voice.”24  This type of symmetry appears frequently in Fugue.  Contour symmetry is particularly evident in the exposition and the final section and, to a lesser degree, in the middle section.  Moments of tension are created when the voices ascend and descend together in the middle section.

 

Keith Waters’ “central thesis reverses the analytical assumption that pitch plays the fundamental role in determining musical structure, and that other elements such as rhythmic organization, are secondary.”25  Elements of tonality may have some relevance in analysis of Fugue.  Yet it is the rhythmic and contrapuntal structures that must receive the bulk of our attention.

 

 

Narrative Analysis of Fugue

 

“My essential aim is not to astonish or even to charm: it is to move people.”26  Fugue succeeds admirably!  The subject, full of despair, in a tentative C# minor and piano, begins in the bass.  The contour of the subject is that of a sine wave that begins with downward movement. 

Fig.1 



The first half of the subject moves chromatically and, with the two eighth-rests, adds a sense of dreadful expectation to the mood of the subject.  Note also that the subject ends lower than it begins so, although there is the hopeful ascent of the subject from the middle of measure two, the descent brings the subject lower than it began.  Of particular importance is the rhythmic figure  found in the subject.  Honegger uses this motive to great effect in the middle section.

Fig.2



The alto immediately responds with a tonal answer in unsettled G# minor.  There is no countersubject.  Immediately following is the tenor entry in C# minor.  Up to this point all the entries have been on the manuals.  The pedals enter during the last half of the tenor entry, moving in similar motion with the tenor voice, creating a series of thirds.  The soprano, the last voice to enter, begins immediately upon the conclusion of the tenor entry and is in G# minor.  The tonality is insecure during the exposition as there are no cadences or cadential gestures.  This uncertainty adds to the sense of despair.

 

The exposition concludes in m.14 with a short, two measure link that outlines vii065/v.  The middle section begins in m. 15 on v6.  This dramatic section is filled with increasing tension as the motive (Fig.2) is presented in sequence and is broken down into smaller units while the pitch and dynamic level climb until, the fortissimo, full organ chord at mm.27.  All the tension is released at this point in a primal scream of anguish.

 

After mm.27, the middle section begins to lose intensity and drive as the pitch, texture and dynamics recede.  Measures 30 to 32 serve as a link to the final section continuing the motive in a descending sequence that outlines vii07/C# minor and leads to a C# pedal that begins the final section.

 

The final section, with its thinner texture and greater voice separation, is serene and positive in its outlook.  Honegger was described as having a “great spiritual presence”27 and that his “whole approach belongs to an inescapably spiritual concept … in his soul he was profoundly religious … it comes out in his music.”28  The quiet strength of the final section, after the despair of the exposition and the wrenching turmoil of the middle section, stands as a monument to Honegger’s belief, “Because … there is Hope, which is the strongest.”29  The final section, in contrast to the tentative C# minor of the exposition, is a secure C# major heard on a shimmering pianissimo string stop.

 

The subject appears twice in the final section, both times in the soprano and over a tonic pedal.  The first entry is incomplete while the second is elongated.


Fig.3




Honegger marks the completion of the elongated subject entry by moving back to the tonic pedal after a two measure respite.  The two eighth-rests now fill the listener with hopeful anticipation in contrast to the awful dread embodied in the rests of the exposition.  The subject is still in the shape of a sine wave that begins with downward movement.  However, this presentation is three octaves higher than that of the entry in the exposition, is in the major and ends at the same pitch as it began.

 

The tonic pedal returns for the next five measures.  The dynamic level continues to decease.  The pitch descends two octaves to rest securely on a C# major chord over the quiet strength of a resultant 32’ in the pedal.

 

The above narrative is important in understanding that Honegger prided himself in his ability to communicate to the listener “since for Honegger the need to communicate with people directly was always the absolute priority.”30  His compositions have a strong narrative sense and a great spiritual presence.

 

 

Form Analysis of Fugue

 

A strong narrative sense must also be present in the notes and musical gestures of a composition.  The following schematic representation of Fugue illustrates the germane notes and gestures.

 

EXPOSITION:

mm.1               2               3               4               5               6               7

S

A                                                        Tonal Answer: G# minor_______

T                                                                                                           S_____

B    Subject: C# minor___

 

mm.8               9              10              11              12              13              14

S                                       TA: G# minor_________________

A

T     _________________

B                                                                                                               

                                                                                                                 vii065/v

 

MIDDLE SECTION:

mm.15            16              17              18              19              20             

S                              Incomplete_____Motive F_M/Ab       C#,   D

A                     Incomplete__________     M/C_M/C#    M/E

T    Incomplete__________                                                     M/G, G#, A(to alto)

B

        v6

 

mm.21            22              23              24              25              26

S     D#,   E     E#,   F#       M/E, C      M/G#, G     M/B, B#      M/C#, D, C#

A    M/A, Bb, B(to tenor)                          M/C#,     E       M/F#     M/F#, Fx, G#

T                    M/B, C, C#                                                            M/D, D#, E

B                                                                                           M/G#, A, A#

Pedals                                                                V65                   i

 

mm.                27            28              29             

S}                   V7/B major                 V7/D sharp major

A}

T}

B}

Pedals           B                                D#

 

LINK:

mm.                30            31              32             

S                    M/D

A

T                                    M/ A, (C=B#)

B                                                      M/D#, F#

                                      outlines vii07/C# minor

 

FINAL SECTION:

mm.               33            34              35              36              37              38

S                    Incomplete________Modified/Extended___

A                                                                series of       {            D___C#_______

T                                                                descending  {   B________A#_______

B                                                                   thirds

Pedals          C#__________________________________________ D#_______

 

mm.               39            40              41              42              43              44

S

A                  _____C__B______A_G______________F#(F) E#(Eb)D#    C__B

T                  A_______G#__ E# (F)_E_______ D#______D__C#  C____A__G#

B

Pedals        F#_______C#___________________________________________

                                                                                                                   (V7/iv)

 

 

mm.              45            46              47             

S                   F# minor triad

A                                                   Motive (exact pitch of Answer)

T

B                

Pedals          F#______                  P5 (G#2, C#2)                                                                                                               

                     (iv)            V43           I (C# major)

 

 

“I attach a great importance to musical architecture.”31  Fugue is an example of Honegger’s skill and delight in musical architecture.  Through the symmetry and balance found in the proportions of the sections of this three-part form, symmetry in register, limited use of cadences (to delineate sections), rhythmic consistency, voice exchange and motive manipulation, he has designed a fugue that is architecturally sound.  Tension, climax and repose also provide symmetry for this three-section piece.  Strong elements of unity are also found in Fugue.

 

Honegger creates a work that is balanced with respect to the number of measures per section.  As mentioned above, the exposition is fourteen measures in length, the middle section is fourteen measures (plus a three-measure link to the final section).  The final section is also fourteen measures in length.  We can see in the above schematic representation that Honegger indicates these sections with cadences.

 

An example of symmetry can be found in the presentation of the subject/answer in the exposition.  The lower voices, bass and tenor, present the subject in the “tonic” while the upper voices, alto and soprano, present the answer in the “dominant”.  The lowest of the low voices, the bass, and the lowest of the high voices, the alto, present first.  The highest of the low voices, the tenor, and the highest of the high voices, the soprano, present second.

 

Honegger’s use of the rhythmic motive (M) conveys unity and symmetry.  The rhythmic motive is always metrically correct whenever it is presented.  The melodic intervals also remain intact.  The motive is first presented in the subject and is developed extensively in the middle section.  It also acts as the link between the middle and final sections and is present in both the incomplete and elongated subjects of the final section.  Finally, it is the only moving part in the last measure of the piece.

 

Voice exchange, found primarily in the exposition, also gives this piece elements of symmetry and unity.  It serves as a link between two voices and provides a rest, for the listener, from the surrounding dissonance.

 

Fugue cannot be analysed in the same manner as that of a tonal work, yet there are some elements of tonality – cadences – which are important to the architecture of the piece.  A vii065/v to v6 indicates the end of the exposition and the beginning of the middle section.  The end of the middle section proper is indicated with bitonal cadences which also present the head of the subject.  Measures 30 to 32 imply an elongated vii07/ C sharp minor which resolves on to I/C sharp major in m.33.  Honegger concludes Fugue on a cadence of V43 to I (C# major).  “There is a particular sense of movement … tied up to the concept of tonality, or at least to an argument dominated by the presence of the harmonic cadence, and this cadence informs Honegger’s writing, even if in a very extended sense.”32  Honegger employs cadences to clearly divide Fugue into three equal sections.

 

Honegger obviously had ‘musical architecture’ in mind when he composed Fugue in 1917.  He was nearing the end of his counterpoint and composition studies at the Paris Conservatoire.  He was passionate about composing.  He was passionate about J.S. Bach and about counterpoint.  He was less passionate about tonality.  As we have seen, Fugue is at once tonal, bitonal, modal and chromatic.  Halbreich coins the term “metatonality”33 for the music of Honegger.  What does Honegger himself say?

 

                           I tend, perhaps too much so, to look for polyphonic complexity.  My great model is Johann Sebastian Bach.  I do not, like certain anti-impressionist musicians, seek a return to harmonic simplicity.  On the contrary, I argue that we must make use of the harmonic resources created by the school preceding us, but in a different way, as a base for line and rhythm.  Bach made use of the elements of tonal harmony, as I should wish to make use of modern harmonic superpositions.34

 


Honegger unmistakably states that he does not wish to rely on tonality but on “line and rhythm” to provide a sense of musical architecture.  At the same time he is equally clear regarding the importance of communicating with the listener through his music.  How was Honegger able to reconcile his wish to communicate while choosing not to employ a tonal language that generally is considered to be more easily understood by listeners?

 

Reconciling Form and Narrative

 

What compositional elements can we find that enable Honegger to bring the above, or any other, narrative to the imagination of the performer and/or listener?  I believe the answer lies Honegger’s sense of architecture; in the motivic unity, tension, climax and repose, changes in texture, the mixing of tonal, modal and chromatic moments and rhythm.  Waters concludes that in

 

Honegger’s compositions, rhythm and meter play an important constructive role … rhythmic and metric conflicts serve dramatic and developmental processes … Honegger establishes conflicts and creates relationships that play out across different layers of rhythmic structure … Honegger’s music shows careful and nuanced strategies from the lowest to the highest levels of compositional organization.35

 

Although many salient points were discussed under the “Narrative Analysis of Fugue”, some further techniques or devices should be addressed.  Honegger’s use of chromaticism, rhythmic crescendo, texture and stretto work together to produce areas of tension, climax and repose.

 

Typically, the texture of a fugue thickens during the exposition and indeed, this is the case with this piece.  As the texture moves from that of one voice to four voices the tension increases.  The subject and its subsequent answer begin nearly two octaves apart and within a measure are a third apart.  The texture throughout the exposition is quite dense with the lower voices often crossing.  The density and the tension abate as we approach the vii065/v to v6 cadence that begins the middle section.

 

Before proceeding to a discussion of the middle and final sections it is necessary to discuss the use of the pedals in the exposition.  Honegger uses the pedals of the organ is an unusual yet effective manner in the exposition.  The first entry of the subject is on the manuals and is in the bass “voice”.  We know this because of the range of the notes.  We also know this because, in this four-voice fugue, each voice appears at a higher pitch than that of the first entry.  This indicates that the initial entry is indeed in the bass “voice”.  One would consequently wonder about the function of the pedals.  Is Honegger going to wait for a climactic moment or a moment of strength to introduce the pedals?  No, this is not the case here.  The pedals sneak in nearly unnoticed to double, in thirds for the most part, the tail of the subject in the tenor.  In fact, there are several points here and throughout this fugue at which the tenor line is below the bass line.  This may be evident on the printed page but is not evident to the listener due to the registration used on the organ.  The 16’ stop used on the pedals will allow the pedal line to sound lower than the tenor line.  At the same time, the 8’ pedal stop allows the bass line to sound higher than the tenor line.  In this way Honegger has the best of both worlds.  The pedal line both supports the “harmony” while at the same time, crosses the tenor line.  The effect is that of a weakly supported “harmony”.

 

The middle section begins with a feeling of openness as the voices over two octaves apart.  Within a measure they are within an octave, again with frequent voice crossing resulting in tension.  The middle section begins with the head of the subject being presented twice, in stretto.  This quickly becomes the rhythmic motive (Fig.2) that permeates this section.  This too is presented in stretto.  As the sense of tension increases so too does the dynamic level, the pitch level and the amount of chromaticism.  Honegger employs chromaticism to spectacular effect here.  The upper voices rise chromatically, over three measures, from C#5 to F#5 while the bass and alto, using the motivic figure, move, through octave displacements, from G3 to C#4.  Meanwhile the tenor is rising, by tone, from B3 to D# 4.  Honegger has written this section for manuals alone.  He saves the pedals for the climax.

 

Within the span of the next one and one half measures, Honegger has brought the dynamic level down, added the pedals and written the voices closer together thus increasing the density of the texture.  During the next two and one half measures, Honegger rapidly increases the dynamic level, thickens the texture from four voices to five and ultimately nine at the climax.  As the upper voices all move upwards chromatically utilizing the motive in a rhythmic crescendo, the pedal descends to its lowest notes yet, thus widening the gap between the outer voices.  The middle voices fill in this gap creating a thick, dense texture filled with powerful tension.

 

The climax, that reintroduces the head of the subject, is a bitonal cadence in B major.  Immediately after this, the pitch and the dynamic level begin to descend, taking away the tension as they go.  As the motive outlines vii07/ C sharp minor, the pitch rapidly descends two octaves and returns to the lowest pitch (C#2) of the subject.  The texture has also rapidly moved from nine voices, to five and finally to one.  Is it a coincidence that 9 – 4 = 5 -4 = 1?

 

The tension is completely gone as Honegger introduces a new slower tempo for the final section.  He also introduces C# major and a thin and transparent texture over a tonic pedal.  It is over this tonic pedal that Honegger presents the incomplete subject and the elongated, modified subject.  He is strongly suggesting C# major as both the subject entries contain an E# where the original contained an E and, in the accompanying voices, B# leads to C# in several places thus adding to the sense of quiet strength and certainty.  The complete, elongated subject is three octaves higher than the subject of the exposition.  It is bright and light with its soaring arch form.  Over the second tonic pedal, the alto and tenor – a third apart – descend a tenth.  The dynamic level and the rhythmic intensity fall away as does our anxiety.  Although the voices are in close proximity at the end of this piece, they are in support of one another and not in battle as they were throughout the exposition and middle section.  Fugue ends with the sense of quiet strength and peace.  “Because … there is Hope, which is the strongest.”36

 

Conclusions

 

A twenty-five-year-old student at the Paris Conservatoire composed a piece he entitled Fugue.  He was steeped in the tradition of counterpoint.  His model for counterpoint was J.S. Bach.  “Bach was always for Honegger the absolute reference point, the ultimate resort.”37  But did Honegger compose a fugue?  Is Fugue a “true” fugue?

 

This piece has many elements of fugue.  Honegger composed an exposition that follows a plan of entries for a four-voice fugue, although this plan is a little unusual in its design.  It would be more usual for the entries to proceed from the bass to the tenor, to the alto and finally the soprano.  As we have seen, Honegger chose a different order.

 

The middle section contains a typical fugal device of stretto.  As is often the case in fugal form, a motive from the subject, is manipulated in this section.  Unusually though, we do not hear any full statements of the subject in this section.  This section is much more chromatic than either the exposition or the final section.  This alteration of tonal and chromatic sections is also an important characteristic of fugal form.  Honegger’s fugue does not alternate tonal with chromatic but he does section the piece by contrasting less chromatic areas with more chromatic areas.

 

The final section presents both an incomplete and a modified subject entry.  These entries are transformed from the low and despairing C# minor of the exposition to the higher and elated C# major.  Transformation can be found in fugal writing.  It provides a sense of drama.

 

Many fugues are written as a three-part form with each section being clearly defined by a cadence.  Honegger’s Fugue is in three distinct sections that are delineated by cadences.

 

Many fugues contain pedal point, particularly tonic or dominant pedal points.  There are two tonic pedals in the final section of this work.  However, the effect is really that of one long tonic pedal.  It serves to reinforce the tonic while at the same time gives stability while the remaining voices descend to the final cadence.  Honegger’s use of the tonic pedal is slightly different than one would expect to find in a fugue.  The tonic pedal most often announces the end of the fugue or the beginning of the coda.  In both cases, there is a dissipation of tension.

 

A fugue moves from the opening thin texture to areas of tension that culminate at a climax and move from the climax to an area of repose by the end of the fugue.  Honegger’s Fugue certainly does this.

 

Honegger’s Fugue has many of the constituent characteristics of the fugal form yet I do not believe that this work is a fugue in the purest sense.  The exposition and the middle section form a unit.  The middle section and the final section comprise a unit.  Although there is unity between the exposition and the final section they do not connect in the manner of a “true” fugue.  There is no doubt that Honegger employed counterpoint techniques in composing this piece, but this is not enough to identify this composition as an archetypal fugue.

 

Honegger may not have composed a “fugue” but he did compose a magical piece.  Fugue is a work that admirably accomplishes Honegger’s “essential aim … to move people.”38

 


    
Endnotes

 
1[Back]
Harry Halbreich, Arthur Honegger, trans. Roger Nichols (Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press, 1999), 605.

2[Back]Ibid, p.605.

3[Back]Keith Waters, Rhythmic and Contrapuntal Structures in the Music of Arthur Honegger (Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2002), 5.

4[Back]Ibid, p.8.

5[Back]Halbreich, p.35.

6[Back]Waters, p.63.

7[Back]Ibid, p.8.

8[Back]Ibid, p.9.

9[Back]Ibid.

10[Back]Halbreich, p.20.

11[Back]Ibid, p.27.

12[Back]Ibid, p.31.

13[Back]Ibid, p.36.

14[Back]Ibid, p.608.

15[Back]Waters, p.5.

16[Back]Halbreich, p.66.

17[Back]Waters, p.31.

18[Back]Ibid, p.27.

19[Back]Arthur Honegger, I am a Composer trans. Wilson O. Clough (London: Faber and Faber Ltd., 1966), 83.

20[Back]Ibid, p.93.

21[Back]Waters, p.37.

22[Back]Ibid, p.61.

23[Back]Honegger, p.94.

24[Back]Waters, p.65.

25[Back]Ibid, p.169.

26[Back]Halbreich, p.605.

27[Back]Ibid, p.565.

28[Back]Ibid, p.588.

29[Back]Ibid, p.587.

30[Back]Ibid, p.603.

31[Back]Ibid, p.604.

32[Back]Ibid, p.612.

33[Back]Ibid.

34[Back]Honegger, p.94.

35[Back]Waters, p.59.

36[Back]Halbreich, p.587.

37[Back]Ibid, p.597.

38[Back]Ibid, p.605.
 
 

Bibliography

 

Halbreich, Harry.  Arthur Honegger. Translated by Roger Nichols.  Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press, 1999.

 

Honegger, Arthur.  I am a Composer.  Translated by Wilson O. Clough.  London: Faber and Faber Ltd., 1966.

 

Renwick, William.  Encyclopedia Entries on Fugue, unpublished manuscript, 2003.

 

Spratt, Geoffrey K.  The Music of Arthur Honegger.  Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press, 1987.

 

Waters, Keith.  Rhythmic and Contrapuntal Structures in the Music of Arthur Honegger.  Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2002.

 

Copyright 2003 Deborah Henry

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