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Darius Milhaud (French pronunciation: [darjys mijo]; 4 September 1892 – 22 June 1974) was a French composer and teacher. He was a member of Les Six—also known as the Groupe des Six—and one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century. His compositions are influenced by jazz and make use of polytonality (music in more than one key at once).

Contents

Life and career

Born in Marseilles to a Jewish family from Aix-en-Provence, Milhaud studied in Paris at the Paris Conservatory where he met his fellow group members Arthur Honegger and Germaine Tailleferre. He studied composition under Charles Widor and harmony and counterpoint with André Gédalge. He also studied privately with Vincent d'Indy. As a young man he worked for a while in the diplomatic entourage of Paul Claudel, the eminent poet and dramatist, who was serving as French ambassador to Brazil.

On a trip to the United States in 1922, Darius Milhaud heard "authentic" jazz for the first time, on the streets of Harlem, [1] which left a great impact on his musical outlook. The following year, he completed his composition "La création du monde" ("The Creation of the World"), using ideas and idioms from jazz, cast as a ballet in six continuous dance scenes.[1]

He left France in 1939 and emigrated to America in 1940 (his Jewish background made it impossible for him to return to his native country until after its Liberation). He secured a teaching post at Mills College in Oakland, California, where he collaborated with Henri Temianka and the Paganini Quartet. In an extraordinary concert there in 1949, the Budapest Quartet performed the composer's 14th String Quartet, followed by the Paganini's performance of his 15th; and then both ensembles played the two pieces together as an octet.[citation needed] The following year, these same pieces were performed at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, by the Paganini and Juilliard Quartet.[citation needed]

Legendary jazz pianist Dave Brubeck arguably became Milhaud's most famous student when Brubeck furthered his music studies at Mills College in the late 1940s[citation needed] (he named his eldest son Darius). However, his former students also include two of the seminal figures in America's version of minimalism, Philip Glass and Steve Reich, several arrangers and composers associated with West Coast modern jazz,[citation needed] and popular songwriter Burt Bacharach.[2] Milhaud told Bacharach, "Don't be afraid of writing something people can remember and whistle. Don't ever feel discomfited by a melody".[3]

Milhaud (like his contemporaries Paul Hindemith, Gian Francesco Malipiero, Bohuslav Martinů and Heitor Villa-Lobos) was an extremely rapid creator, for whom the art of writing music seemed almost as natural as breathing. His most popular works include Le bœuf sur le toit (ballet), La création du monde (a ballet for small orchestra with solo saxophone, influenced by jazz), Scaramouche (for Saxophone and Piano, also for two pianos), and Saudades do Brasil (dance suite). His autobiography is titled Notes sans musique (Notes Without Music), later revised as Ma vie heureuse (My Happy Life).

From 1947 to 1971 he taught alternate years at Mills and the Paris Conservatoire, until poor health, which caused him to use a wheelchair during his later years (beginning sometime before 1947), compelled him to retire. He died in Geneva, aged 81.

Works

Darius Milhaud was very prolific and composed for a wide range of genres. His opus list ended at 443.

See List of compositions by Darius Milhaud.

Notable students

Media

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Notes

  1. ^ a b "Milhaud - La création du monde" (of Darius Milhaud, English language), Pomona College, Department of Music, 1999, webpage: PomonaEdu-Milhaud-Creation.
  2. ^ Mihai Cucos, "A Few Points about Burt Bacharach …", Perspectives of New Music 43, no. 1 (Winter 2005): 198–211. Citation on 200.
  3. ^ Mihai Cucos, "A Few Points about Burt Bacharach …", Perspectives of New Music 43, no. 1 (Winter 2005): 198–211. Citation on 205.

Archival collections

External links

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Simple English

File:Milhaud Darius
Darius Milhaud

Darius Milhaud (pronounced "DAR-yus MEE-oh") (born Marseille, 4 September 1892; died Geneva 22 June 1974) was a French composer. He was a member of the group called Les Six. He is one of the most important French composers of the 20th century. He wrote more than 400 compositions. His music is often influenced by jazz and polytonality (music in more than one key at once).

Life

Milhaud's family were Jewish. He grew up in Aix-en-Provence. His father was an almond dealer. When he was very small he often listened to the songs that were being sung by the women who were sorting out the nuts. They were folksongs from the Provence. When he was a young man he liked to go for walks in the Provence country. This was an important part of his life.

Milhaud's parents liked music. His father was a pianist and often played at local music gatherings. His mother had a nice contralto voice. When he was seven he learned to play the violin. He loved the music of Claude Debussy whom he met only once.

Milhaud studied in Paris at the Paris Conservatory where he met Arthur Honegger and Germaine Tailleferre who were also to become members of Les Six. He studied composition under Charles-Marie Widor and harmony and counterpoint with André Gédalge. He also studied privately with Vincent d'Indy. He taught himself to play the piano. In Paris he was able to listen to music by a lot of great composers.

He was terribly sad when a close friend was killed in World War I. He decided to go to Brazil. He worked there for nearly two years, deciphering codes. He liked the sounds of the jungle. This was to influence his music. The other great influence was jazz which he heard in 1922 in New York.

Milhaud returned to France and worked very hard. He often travelled. In 1940 he had to emigrate to the United States because the Nazis were arresting Jewish musicians. In America he gave lectures.

His health became poor. He had rheumatoid arthritis and, by 1948, he was in a wheelchair. He still continued to travel for as long as possible.

In 1925 Milhaud married an actress called Madeleine. She often performed speaking parts in her husband's musical works, e.g. in his oratorio Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher (Joan of Arc at the stake). She devoted herself to looking after him in his final years. She died in Paris on 17 January 2008 at the age of 105.

His works

Milhaud's most popular works include Le Boeuf sur le Toit (ballet), La création du monde (a ballet for small orchestra with solo saxophone, influenced by jazz), Scaramouche (for Saxophone and Orchestra, also for two pianos), and Saudades do Brazil (dance suite). His autobiography is called Notes Sans Musique (Notes Without Music), later rewritten as Ma Vie Heureuse (My Happy Life).

References


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