Rugby is a style of football that originated in England at Rugby School and was played at British public boy’s schools during the 19th century.
It’s also the name of a tone poem written by the Swiss composer Arthur Honegger that premiered in Paris at the Théâtre des Champes-Elysées on today’s date in 1928 at the very first concert of the Orchestre Symphonique de Paris.
In describing his tone poem, Honegger wrote: “I’m very fond of soccer, but rugby is closer to my heart … I’m more keenly attracted by rugby’s rhythm, which is savage, abrupt, chaotic, and desperate. It would be wrong to consider my piece as program music. It simply tries to describe in musical language the game’s attacks and counterattacks, and the rhythm and color of a match.”
Now, you would think in such a slam-bang contact sport as rugby that Honegger would employ a big battery of percussion instruments, but—surprise—they are totally absent in his score. Not to worry. There is plenty of rough ‘n’ tumble action between the strings, winds, and brass, but fortunately no protective headgear is required by either the performers OR the listeners.
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