Bonhomme, Andrée

Maastricht, 1 December 1905
Brunssum, 1 March 1982

Photo: NMI

duration: about 6’30”;
publisher: Donemus, Rijswijk 2015;
‘in memoriam F. d’A.’.

Pièce en forme de sonate [sonatine] opus 86
1. Lent et très expressif
2. Vif et joyeux
duration: about 10′;
publisher: Donemus, Rijswijk 2015.

In memoriam Henri Hermans
duration: about 4′;
publisher: Donemus, Rijswijk 2015.

Andrée Bonhomme received her first piano lessons at the age of seven. When the Maastricht Municipal Music Lyceum first began offering professional training in 1924 she was the first student to enrol as a piano major, graduating in 1930. While still studying piano she began a theory of music major with Henri Hermans, director of the music school and conductor of the Maastrichts Stedelijk Orkest (Maastricht Municipal Orchestra). When she was about 10 years old Andrée had already composed melodies with accompaniments which had alerted Charles Smulders to her talent as a composer. Now Hermans took on the role of a dedicated mentor, helping her to further develop her talent.
According to some sources it was Hermans who brought Bonhomme into contact with Darius Milhaud in 1928, while other sources indicate the singer Vera Janacopoulos. Milhaud accepted Bonhomme as a student in October 1929 and she subsequently travelled to Paris for composition lessons each month until 1937. Dr. Hans van Dijk writes that the surviving correspondence reveals that Milhaud primarily focused on her instrumentation and accompaniments (she composed a great many songs including the superb cycle ‘La flûte de jade’) and did not overly concern himself with her musical ideas as such. This may partly explain why her music never sounded like an imitation of Milhaud, despite its quintessentially French flavour. Incidentally, her concert programmes not only include works by Debussy, Roussel and Ravel but also Jolivet and Messiaen. Most of Andrée Bonhomme’s works have not yet been published.

In his programme notes for a CD compilation of various recordings of Andrée Bonhomme’s works, released in 2005, Hans van Dijk wrote the following. “The ‘Pièce en forme de sonate’ for cello and piano and the ‘Sonate pour violon et piano’ were both composed during the war in 1943. Regarding the first work Andrée apparently intended to compose a four-movement sonata based on the classical form structure. The first sketches also indicate that the work was initially conceived for the violin, not cello. Count d’Avou Dion, a family member in France with whom she had often stayed prior to 1940, passed away in November 1941. Due to the circumstances of war she had been unable to visit him since 1939, so she had no chance to say farewell before his death. Andrée completed a ‘Lamento’ for cello and piano in February 1942. In retrospect it would appear that she was not satisfied with the work, since it was never performed. During the course of 1942 she wrote a new ‘Lamento’ (Adagio con molto espressione), to which she added a fast movement (Allegro e giocoso) in February 1943. This became the opening of the ‘Pièce en forme de sonate’. Subsequently she focused her attention on other works, leaving it as a two-movement work. When she performed it for the first time in a radio programme in June 1947 she altered the original title to ‘Pièce en forme de sonatine’, used here in the sense of ‘incomplete sonata’. During the same period the Nuth local council asked her to compose a work for the official unveiling of a bust of Henri Hermans. Her former mentor was – as we know – born in Nuth. The result was a third ‘Lamento’, once again for cello and piano, entitled ‘In memoriam Henri Hermans’.”
All three laments are composed in 3/4 time. The cello sings the lament, while the piano primarily has a simple accompanying role. Each lament has its own individual accompaniment figure. Under the first lament, dedicated to her great-uncle François Count d’Avou Dion, Bonhomme added two lines of verse: ‘jamais, jamais nous le reverrons! / il dort couché sous la vague écumante’. With a minor alteration: ‘nous’ replacing ‘ils’, the lines are an excerpt from the poem ‘Le pauvre petit matelot’ from the compilation Les premiers chants: poésies à l’usage de la jeunesse (1868) by the pastor-poet Jacques Louis Tournier (1828-1898) from Geneva. The poem was included in the translation book for secondary school students Glanures. premiers exercices de lecture et de traduction compiled by F.L. Faisely (1887) and it is possible that Bonhomme remembered it from this source (our thanks to Merel Dercksen and Leo Samama). Incidentally, her parents spoke French at home and she attended a French-speaking school.

* all three pieces: see Discography, Dutch Cello Sonatas CD volume 7
* Pièce en forme de sonate: Marcel Frère & Andrée Bonhomme, on the CD ‘Andrée Bonhomme, een ontmoeting’ (Andrée Bonhomme, an encounter), issued by the Stichting Andrée Bonhomme in 2005.

(July 31st 2014)