by ARTHUR HONEGGER
Symphonic Psalm in three parts, after a Drama. by RENÉ MORAX
Performed by THE CIVIL SERVICE CHOIR, assisted by MEMBERS OF THE RAILWAY CLEARING HOUSE CHOIR
THE WIRELESS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
(Leader, S. KNEALE KELLEY)
ELSIE SUDDABY (Soprano)
DOROTHY D'ORSAY (Contralto)
LEONARD GOWINGS (Tenor)
A.S. HIBBERD (Narrator)
Conducted by STANFORD ROBINSON
(Relayed from the Central Hall, Westminster)
ARTHUR HONEGGER was born of Swiss parents in 1 892. He studied in Paris, under Gedalge and Widor, and struck out on individual lines, some of the most mature results of which process we are to hear tonight.
King David, by Rene Morax, was originally produced as a drama with incidental music by Honegger. Later the composer made, on the same subject, a form of Oratorio, or, as he calls it, 'Symphonic Psalm,' which was broadcast at one of the B.B.C. National Concerts in March of this year. A full annotation of the work appeared in The Radio Times of March 11, and those readers who keep their copies will probably like to refer to this issue.
The music is for Soprano, Contralto and Tenor, Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra. A Narrator declaims the dramatic thread of the story, which follows the fortunes of David as told in the Books of Samuel and Chronicles.
The work is in three Parts, and there are in all twenty-eight items, most of them very short - many containing only a page or so of music.
In PART I, after a short orchestral Introduction, the Narrator tells of God's charge to Samuel to choose David as King of Israel, and of Samuel’s discharging his task. David's victory over Goliath is the subject of the next scene. This, and all the other scenes, is commented on in the musical numbers. Next we turn to Saul’s jealousy of David, and the youth's flight to the desert, where he languished in sadness. Saul sent messengers to take him, but 'the Lord delivered Saul into the hands of David.' Yet the young man did him no harm.
The music now suggests the scene of Saul's camp. His army is hard pressed, and in his fear for the future he consults the Witch of Endor.
The ghost of Samuel appears, and prophesies that the Lord shall deliver the Israelites into the Philistines' hands.
Saul slays himself after the battle of Gilboa.
David mourns for him and for his son Jonathan, David's great friend.
A lament ends Part I.
PART II. describes David, as king, building
Jerusalem as the holy place of God. The ark is reverenced with dancing. The scene of the dance is the longest in the work. There is a solo part (an Angel), and a Chorus of Angels, Maidens, Women, Priests and Soldiers. The Angel warns David that a child is born who shall sit on his throne—Solomon. An angelic chorus of 'Alleluias' closes Part II.
PART III. God blesses David, but he desires Bathsheba, and brings about the death of her husband Uriah. Nathan is sent to reprove him, and David mourns for his sin.
Absalom, David's son, rises against him, and David flees to the desert. The people take the field against Israel, and Absalom is killed.
Now comes a March of the Hebrews as David returns to Jerusalem. He sings a song of gratitude to the Lord, but presently grows too proud, and the sin is visited upon the people by pestilence.
David crowns Solomon king, and, dying, thanks his God: 'O how good it was to live I thank thee, God, Thou who gavest me life! The work concludes with an Angelic Chorus of 'Alleluia,' swelling to a triumphant pæan.