Death of H-number musicologist

Radio France has announced the death of Harry Halbreich, the world authority on Olivier Messiaen and an indefatigable cataloguer of other composers. The works of Honegger and Martinu are listed in H numbers.

Berlin born, based in Belgium, he wrote at least a dozen composer biographies.

Harry was 85.

harry halbreich

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  • Adam Stern says:

    I have long treasured Mr. Halbreich’s book on Arthur Honegger, one of the best biographies I know of a 20th-century composer. Rest in peace, sir.

    • Ruben Greenberg says:

      Thank you for mentioning the existence of this book, Mr. Stern. Honegger is such an inspiring, underrated composer. I would give at least half of the Shostakovich symphonies for Honneger’s third. -all of them for Honegger’s fourth. Monsieur Halbreich was indeed a fine writer. I imagine he has not been translated into English.

      • Adam Stern says:

        Dear Mr. Greenberg,
        Thank you for your kind words. I couldn’t agree more about Honegger; I love the Third and the Fifth symphonies and, even more, the unbelievable “Joan of Arc at the Stake”, a work that’s almost too powerful for its own good. Another neglected piece I find very satisfying is the “Mouvement Symphonique No. 3”. Interesting that you should mention Shostakovich in the context you did: I have the score to an arrangement of the Honegger “Liturgique” for piano, four-hands that Shostakovich made, apparently out of his reverence for the work. Also, I couldn’t tell if you assumed the Honegger book wasn’t in English, but it most certainly is!

        Best regards,

        Adam Stern

        • Ruben Greenberg says:

          A musician friend here in France referred to Honegger as: “a Protestant Shostakovich”! Unfair, but “un bon mot”. Monsieur Halbreich’s biography of the composer has just been placed at the top of my summer reading list thanks to you. It’s a pity we wait until somebody is no longer with us to delve into his artistic production (in reference to Harry Halbreich). I’m as guilty as the next man of this.

  • Scott MacClelland says:

    For us music journalists this is a great loss. Harry was one-of-a-kind, as much an adored oddball as an authoritative opinion maker.

  • Eric says:

    RIP. A great character, source of knowledge and a tireless musicological investigator.

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