Milhaud, Darius, eminent French composer and teacher; b. Marseilles, Sept. 4, 1892; d. Geneva, June 22, 1974. He was the descendant of an old Jewish family, settled in Provence for many centuries. His father was a merchant of almonds; there was a piano in the house, and Milhaud improvised melodies as a child; then began to take violin lessons. He entered the Paris Cons, in 1909, almost at the age limit for enrollment, where he studied with Berthelier (violin), Lefèvre (ensemble), Leroux (harmony), Gédalge (counterpoint), Widor (composition and fugue), and d’Indy (conducting) and played violin in the student orch. under Dukas. He received 1st “accessit” in violin and counterpoint, and 2nd in fugue; won the Prix Lepaulle for composition. While still a student, he wrote music in a bold modernistic manner; became associated with Satie, Cocteau, and Claudel. When Claudel was appointed French minister to Brazil, he engaged Milhaud as his secretary; they sailed for Rio de Janeiro early in 1917; returned to Paris (via the West Indies and N.Y.) shortly after the armistice of Nov. 1918. Milhaud’s name became known to a larger public as a result of a newspaper article by Henri Collet in Comoedia (Jan. 16, 1920), grouping him with 5 other French composers of modern tendencies (Auric, Durey, Honegger, Poulenc, and Tailleferre) under the sobriquet Les Six, even though the association was stylistically fortuitous. In 1922 he visited the U.S.; lectured at Harvard Univ., Princeton Univ., and Columbia Univ.; appeared as pianist and composer in his own works; in 1925 he traveled in Italy, Germany, Austria, and Russia; returning to France, he devoted himself mainly to composition and teaching. At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, he was in Aix-en-Provence; in July 1940 he went to the U.S.; taught at Mills Coll. in Oakland, Calif. In 1947 he returned to France; was appointed prof. at the Paris Cons., but continued to visit the U.S. as conductor and teacher almost annually, despite arthritis, which compelled him to conduct while seated; he retained his post at Mills Coll. until 1971; then settled in Geneva. His autobiography appeared in an Eng. tr. as My Happy Life (London, 1995). Exceptionally prolific from his student days, he wrote a great number of works in every genre; introduced a modernistic type of music drama, “opéra à la minute,” and also the “miniature symphony.” He experimented with new stage techniques, incorporating cinematic interludes; also successfully revived the Greek type of tragedy with vocal accompaniment. He composed works for electronic instruments, and demonstrated his contrapuntal skill in such compositions as his 2 String Quartets (No. 14 and No. 15), which can be played together as a string octet. He was the first to exploit polytonality in a consistent and deliberate manner; applied the exotic rhythms of Latin America and the West Indies in many of his lighter works; of these, his Saudades do Brasil are particularly popular; Brazilian movements are also found in his Scaramouche and Le Boeuf sur le toit; in some of his works he drew upon the resources of jazz. His ballet La Création du monde (1923), portraying the Creation in terms of Negro cosmology, constitutes the earliest example of the use of the blues and jazz in a symphonic score, anticipating Gershwin in this respect. Despite this variety of means and versatility of forms, Milhaud succeeded in establishing a style that was distinctly and identifiably his own; his melodies are nostalgically lyrical or vivaciously rhythmical, according to mood; his instrumental writing is of great complexity and difficulty, and yet entirely within the capacities of modern virtuoso technique; he arranged many of his works in several versions.
dramatic:Opera: La Brebis égarée, “roman musical” (1910–15; Paris, Dec. 10, 1923); Le Pauvre Matelot, “complainte en trois actes” (1926; Paris, Dec. 12, 1927); Les Malheurs d’Orphée (Brussels, May 7, 1926); Esther de Carpentras, opéra-bouffe (1925; Paris, Feb. 1, 1938); 3 “minute operas”:L’Enlèvement d’Europe (Baden-Baden, July 17, 1927), L’Abandon d’Ariane, and La Délivrance de Thésée (Wiesbaden, April 20, 1928); Christophe Colomb (Berlin, May 5, 1930); Maximilien (Paris, Jan. 4, 1932); Médée (Antwerp, Oct. 7, 1939); Bolivar (1943; Paris, May 12, 1950); Le Jeu de Robin et Marion, mystery play after Adam de la Halle (Wiesbaden, Oct. 28, 1951); David (Jerusalem, June 1, 1954); La Mère coupable, to a libretto by Madeleine Milhaud, after Beaumarchais (Geneva, June 13, 1966); Saint Louis, Roi de France, opera-oratorio (1970–71; Rio de Janeiro, April 14, 1972). Incidental Music:Agamemnon (1913; Paris, April 16, 1927); Les Choéphores (concert version, Paris, June 15, 1919; stage version, Brussels, March 27, 1935); Les Euménides (1922; Antwerp, Nov. 27, 1927); Jeux d’enfants, 3 children’s plays:A propos de bottes (1932), Un Petit Peu de musique (1933), and Un Petit Peu d’exercise (1937). Ballet: L’Homme et son désir (Paris, June 6, 1921); Le Boeuf sur le toit (Paris, Feb. 21, 1920); Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel (Paris, June 19, 1921; in collaboration with Honegger, Auric, Poulenc, and Tailleferre); La Création du monde (Paris, Oct. 25, 1923); Salade, “ballet chanté” (Paris, May 17, 1924); Le Train bleu, “danced operetta” (Paris, June 20, 1924); Polka for the ballet L’Éventail de Jeanne, in homage to the music patroness Jeanne Dubost (Paris, June 16, 1927; in collaboration with Ravel, Ibert, Roussel et al); Jeux de printemps (Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 1944); The Bells, after Poe (Chicago, April 26, 1946); ’adame Miroir (Paris, May 31, 1948); Vendange (1952; Nice, April 17, 1972); La Rose des vents (1958); La Branche des oiseaux (1965). orch.:Suite sympho-nique No. 1 (Paris, May 26, 1914) and No. 2 (from incidental music to Claudel’s Protée; Paris, Oct. 24, 1920); 5 syms. for Small Orch.: No. 1, Le Printemps (1917), No. 2, Pastorale (1918), No. 3, Sérénade (1921), No. 4, Dixtuor à cordes (1921), and No. 5, Dixtuor d’instruments à vent (1922); 12 syms. for Large Orch.: No. 1 (Chicago, Oct. 17, 1940, composer conducting), No. 2 (Boston, Dec. 20, 1946, composer conducting), No. 3, Hymnus ambrosianus, for Chorus and Orch. (Paris, Oct. 30, 1947), No. 4 (Paris, May 20, 1948, composer conducting), No. 5 (Turin, Oct. 16, 1953), No. 6 (Boston, Oct. 7, 1955, composer conducting), No. 7 (Chicago, March 3, 1956), No. 8, Rhodanienne (Berkeley, Calif., April 22, 1958), No. 9 (Fort Lauderdale, Fla., March 29, 1960), No. 10 (Portland, Ore., April 4, 1961), No. 11, Romantique (Dallas, Dec. 12, 1960), and No. 12, Rural (Davis, Calif., Feb. 16, 1962); Cinéma-Fantaisie sur Le Boeuf sur le toit for Violin and Orch. (Paris, Dec. 4, 1920); Caramel mou, a shimmy, for Jazz Band (1920); 5 études for Piano and Orch. (Paris, Jan. 20, 1921); Saudades do Brasil, suite of dances (1920–21; also for Piano); Ballade for Piano and Orch. (1921); 3 Rag Caprices (Paris, Nov. 23, 1923); Le Carnaval d’Aix for Piano and Orch. (N.Y, Dec. 9, 1926, composer soloist); 2 hymnes (1927); 3 violin concertos: No. 1 (1927), No. 2 (Paris, Nov. 7, 1948), and No. 3, Concerto royal (1958); Viola Concerto (Amsterdam, Dec. 15, 1929); Concerto for Percussion and Small Orch. (Paris, Dec. 5, 1930); 5 piano concertos: No. 1 (Paris, Nov. 23, 1934), No. 2 (Chicago, Dec. 18, 1941, composer soloist), No. 3 (Prague, May 26, 1946), No. 4 (Boston, March 3, 1950), and No. 5 (1955; N.Y., June 25, 1956); Concertino de printemps for Violin and Orch. (Paris, March 21, 1935); 2 cello concertos: No. 1 (Paris, June 28, 1935) and No. 2 (N.Y., Nov. 28, 1946); Suite provençale (Venice, Sept. 12, 1937); L’Oiseau (Paris, Jan. 30, 1938); Cortège funèbre (N.Y., Aug. 4, 1940); Clarinet Concerto (1941; Washington, D.C, Jan. 30, 1946); Suite for Harmonica and Orch. (1942; Paris, May 28, 1947, Larry Adler soloist; also for Violin and Orch., Philadelphia, Nov. 16, 1945, Zino Francescatti soloist); Concerto for 2 Pianos and Orch. (Pittsburgh, Nov. 13, 1942); Opus americanum (San Francisco, Dec. 6, 1943); Suite française (for Band, N.Y, June 13, 1945; for Orch., N.Y, July 29, 1945); Cain and Abel for Narrator and Orch. (Los Angeles, Oct. 21, 1945); Le Bal martiniquais (N.Y, Dec. 6, 1945, composer conducting); 2 Marches (CBS, N.Y, Dec. 12, 1945); Fête de la Victoire (1945); L’Apothéose de Molière for Harpsichord and Strings (Capri, Sept. 15, 1948); Kentuckiana (Louisville, Jan. 4, 1949); Concerto for Marimba, Vibraphone, and Orch. (St. Louis, Feb. 12, 1949); West Point Suite for Band (West Point, May 30, 1952); Concertino d’hiver for Trombone and Strings (1953); Ouverture méditerranéenne (Louisville, May 22, 1954); Harp Concerto (Venice, Sept. 17, 1954); Oboe Concerto (1957); Aubade (Oakland, Calif., March 14, 1961); Ouverture philharmonique (N.Y, Nov. 30, 1962); A Frenchman in New York (Boston, June 25, 1963); Odes pour les morts des guerres (1963); Murder of a Great Chief of State, in memory of President John F. Kennedy (Oakland, Calif., Dec. 3, 1963); Pacem in terris, choral sym. (Paris, Dec. 20, 1963); Music for Boston for Violin and Orch. (1965); Musique pour Prague (Prague, May 20, 1966); Musique pour l’Indiana (Indianapolis, Oct. 29, 1966); Musique pour Lisbonne (1966); Musique pour Nouvelle Orléans (commissioned by the New Orleans Sym. Orch., but unaccountably canceled, and perf. for the 1st time in Aspen, Colo., Aug. 11, 1968, composer conducting); Musique pour l’Univers Claudelien (Aix-en-Provence, July 30, 1968); Musique pour Graz (Graz, Nov. 24, 1970); Musique pour San Francisco, “with the participation of the audience” (1971); Suite in G (San Rafael, Calif., Sept. 25, 1971); Ode pour Jerusalem (1972). chamber: 2 violin sonatas (1911, 1917); 18 string quartets (1912–51), of which No. 14 and No. 15 are playable together, forming an octet (1st perf. in this form in Oakland, Calif., Aug. 10, 1949); Sonata for Piano and 2 Violins (1914); Le Printemps for Piano and Violin (1914); Sonata for Piano, Flute, Clarinet, and Oboe (1918); Flute Sonatina (1922); Impromptu for Violin and Piano (1926); 3 caprices de Paganini for Violin and Piano (1927); Clarinet Sonatina (1927); Pastorale for Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon (1935); Suite for Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon (1937); La Cheminée du Roi René, suite for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, and Bassoon (1939); Sonatina for 2 Violins (1940); Sonatine à trois for Violin, Viola, and Cello (1940); Sonatina for Violin and Viola (1941); Quatre visages for Viola and Piano (1943); 2 viola sonatas (1944); Elegie for Cello and Piano (1945); Danses de Jacarémirim for Violin and Piano (1945); Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord (1945); Duo for 2 Violins (1945); String Trio (1947); Aspen Serenade for 9 Instruments (1957); String Sextet (1958); Chamber Concerto for Piano, Wind Instruments, and String Quintet (1961); String Septet (1964); Piano Quartet (1966); Piano Trio (1968); Stanford Serenade for Oboe and 11 Instruments (1969; Stanford, Calif., May 24, 1970); Musique pour Ars nova for 13 Instruments (1969); Wind Quintet (1973). Piano: Le Printemps, suite (1915–19); 2 sonatas (1916, 1949); Saudades do Brasil, 12 numbers in 2 books (1921); 3 Rag Caprices(1922; also for Small Orch.); L’Automne, suite of 3 pieces (1932); 4 romances sans paroles (1933); 2 sets of children’s pieces:Touches noires and Touches blanches (1941); La Muse ménagère, suite of 15 pieces (1944; also for Orch.); Une Journée, suite of 5 pieces (1946); L’Enfant aimé, suite of 5 pieces (1948; also for Orch.); Le Candélabre à sept branches, suite (Ein Gev Festival, Israel, April 10, 1952); Scaramouche, version for 2 Pianos (1939); Le Bal martiniquais, version for 2 Pianos (1944); Paris, suite of 6 pieces for 4 Pianos (1948); 6 danses en 3 mouvements for 2 Pianos (Paris, Dec. 17, 1970). VOCAL: 3 albums of songs after Francis Jammes (1910–12); 7 poèmes de la Connaissance de l’Est, after Claudel (1913); 3 poèmes romantiques for Voice and Piano (1914); Le Château, song cycle (1914); 4 poèmes for Baritone, after Claudel (1915–17); 8 poèmes juifs (1916); Child poems (1916); 3 poèmes, after Christina Rossetti (1916); Le Retour de l’enfant prodigue, cantata for 5 Voices and Orch. (1917; Paris, Nov. 23, 1922, composer conducting); Chansons bas for Voice and Piano, after Mallarmé (1917); 2 poèmes de Rimbaud for Voice and Piano (1917); Psalm 136 for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (1918); Psalm 129 for Baritone and Orch. (1919); Les Soirées de Petrograd, in 2 albums:L’Ancien Régime and La Révolution (1919); Machines agricoles for Voice and 7 Instruments, to words from a commercial catalog (1919); 3 poèmes de Jean Cocteau for Voice and Piano (1920); Catalogue de fleurs for Voice and Piano or 7 Instruments (1920); Feuilles de température for Voice and Piano (1920); Cocktail for Voice and 3 Clarinets (1921); Psalm 126 for Chorus (1921); 4 poèmes de Catulle for Voice and Violin (1923); 6 chants populaires hébraïques for Voice and Piano (1925); Hymne de Sion for Voice and Piano (1925); Pièce de circonstance for Voice and Piano, after Cocteau (1926); Cantate pour louer le Seigneur for Soloists, Choruses, and Orch. (1928); Pan et Syrinx, cantata (1934); Les Amours de Ronsard for Chorus and Small Orch. (1934); Le Cygne for Voice and Piano, after Claudel (1935); La Sagesse for Voices and Small Orch., after Claudel (1935; Paris Radio, Nov. 8, 1945); Cantate de la paix, after Claudel (1937); Cantate nuptiale, after Song of Songs (Marseilles, Aug. 31, 1937); Les Deux Cités, cantata (1937); Chanson du capitaine for Voice and Piano (1937); Les Quatre Éléments for Soprano, Tenor, and Orch. (1938); Récréation, children’s songs (1938); 3 élégies for Soprano, Tenor, and Strings (1939); Incantations for Men’s Chorus (1939); Quatrains valaisans for Chorus, after Rilke (1939); Cantate de la guerre for Chorus, after Claudel (1940); Le Voyage d’été, suite for Voice and Piano (1940); 4 chansons de Ronsard for Voice and Orch. (1941); Rêves, song cycle (1942); La Libération des Antilles for Voice and Piano (1944); Kaddisch for Voice, Chorus, and Organ (1945); Sabbath Morning Service for Baritone, Chorus, and Organ (1947); Naissance de Vénus, cantata for Chorus (Paris Radio, Nov. 30, 1949); Ballade-Nocturne for Voice and Piano (1949); Barba Garibo, 10 French folk songs, for Chorus and Orch. (for the celebration of the wine harvest in Menton, 1953); Cantate de l’initiation for Chorus and Orch. (1960); Cantate de la croix de charité (1960); Invocation à l’ange Raphael for 2 Women’s Choruses and Orch. (1962); Adam for Vocal Quintet (1964); Cantate de Psaumes (Paris, May 2, 1968); Les Momies d’Egypte, choral comedy (1972).
Études (essays; Paris, 1926); Notes sans musique (autobiography; Paris, 1949; Eng. tr., London, 1952, as Notes without Music); Entretiens avec Claude Rostand (Paris, 1952); Ma vie heureuse (Paris, 1973; Eng. tr., 1995, as My Happy Life).
G. Augsbourg, La Vie de D. M. en images (Paris, 1935); G. Beck, D. M.:Étude suivie du catalogue chronologique complet (Paris, 1949; suppl., 1957); J. Roy, D. M. (Paris, 1968); A. Braga, D. M. (Naples, 1969); C. Palmer, M. (London, 1976); P. Collaer, D. M. (Geneva and Paris, 1982; Eng. tr., 1988); H. Ehrler, Untersuchungen zur Klaviermusik von Francis Poulenc, Arthur Honegger und D .M. (Tutzing, 1990); F. Bloch, D. M., 1892–1974 (Paris, 1992); A. Lunel, Mon ami D. M.: Inédits (Aix-en-Provence, 1992); H. Malcomess, Die opéras minute von D. M. (Bonn, 1993); M. Kelkel, ed., Colloque international Arthur Honegger-D. M. (1992: Sorbonne) (Paris, 1994); J. Roy, Le groupe des six: Poulenc, M., Honegger, Auric, Tailleferre, Durey (Paris, 1994); D. Mawer, D. M.:Modality and Structure in Music of the 1920s (Aldershot, 1997).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire
Also many songs and music for about 30 films, 1929–59, incl. Madame Bovary (dir. J. Renoir, 1933) and Péron et Evita (1958).
Composer. Nationality: French. Born: Aix-en-Provence, 1892; moved to the United States in 1940. Family: Married his cousin, Madeleine Milhaud, who wrote the libretti for many of his operas. Education: Attended Lycée Mignet, 1902–09, Conservatoire Nationale de Musique, Paris, 1909–14. Career: 1909–14—played violin in student orchestra under the direction of Paul Dukas; 1920s-1930s—toured as composer until stricken by arthritis; 1947—Professor of Composition at the Conservatoire in Paris, also taught at Mills College, California, and the Music School of Aspen, Colorado; 1971—retired and moved to Geneva. Died: In 1974.
Films as Composer:
La Petite Lilie (Cavalcanti)
Hallo Everybody (Richter)
Madame Bovary (Renoir); L'Hippocampe (Painlevé); Tartarin de Tarascon (Bernard)
Voix d'enfants (Reynaud)
The Beloved Vagabond (Bernhardt)
Vom Blitz zum Fernsehbild (La Conquête du ciel) (Richter); La Citadelle du silence (L'Herbier); Mollenard (Capitaine Corsaire) (Siodmak)
La Tragédie impériale (L'Herbier)
Les Otages (Bernard); The Islanders (Harvey); L'Espoir (Sierra de Teruel) (Malraux); Cavalcade d'amour (Bernard) (co); Gulf Stream (Alexeleff)
The Private Affairs of Bel-Ami (Lewin); "Ruth, Roses and Revolver" ep. of Dreams That Money Can Buy (Richter)
Paul Gauguin (Resnais)
La Vie commence demain (Védrès)
Ils étaient tous des volontaires (Villiers); Un Monde perdu (Lorenzi—for TV) (co)
Rentrée des classes (Rozier)
Peintres françaises d'aujourd'hui—Edouard Pignon (Bourniquel and Suzuki)
Vézélay (Vitaly); Dieu a choisi Paris (Prouteau and Arthuys)
Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel (Averty—for TV)
By MILHAUD: books—
Études, Paris, 1927.
Notes sans musique (autobiography), Paris, 1949.
Ma vie heureuse (autobiography), Paris, 1974; as My Happy Life, translated by Donald Evans and Christopher Palmer, London, M. Boyars, 1994.
On MILHAUD: book—
Callaer, Paul, and Jane Hahfield, Darius Milhaud, London, 1988.
Mawer, Deborah, Darius Milhaud: Modality & Structure in Music of the 1920s, Brookfeild, 1997.
On MILHAUD: articles—
Theatre Arts, vol. 31, no. 9, September 1947.
Film Dope (London), no. 43, January 1990.
Smith, Richard Langham, "Darius Milhaud," in Music & Letter, February 1990.
Wentzel, Wayne C., in Notes, March 1992.
Thiel, Wolfgang, in Film-Dienst (Cologne), 18 August 1992.
Monaghan, Peter, "An Idiosyncratic Composer Explores the Sonic Mystery of the World," in Chronicle of Higher Education, 19 April 1996.
Teachout, Terry, "Modernism with a Smile: Composers Darius Milhaud and Francis Poulenc," in Commentary, April 1998.
On MILHAUD: film—
A Visit with Darius Milhaud, 1955.
* * *
Darius Milhaud was one of the most prolific composers of the century, with a final tally of well over 400 opus numbers taking in every major musical form. It is not surprising that, along with everything else, he composed a good deal of film music. Indeed it would have been more surprising if he had not, given his lifelong love of the cinema. His first major success, the 1919 Surrealist ballet Le Boeuf sur le toit, was originally subtitled a Cinéma-symphonie, "suitable for an accompaniment to one of Charlie Chaplin's films."
Milhaud supplied music for some 25 films, starting out in the silent era with a score to accompany Marcel L'Herbier's avant-garde melodrama L'Inhumaine. The music is lost, but it is reputed to have matched the film's abrupt, expressionist rhythm, climaxing—for a scene where the hero resurrects his dead love in a futuristic laboratory—in a bravura cadenza scored solely for percussion instruments.
Audacious and (at least in his younger years) impudently iconoclastic, Milhaud relished experimentation for its own sake. He was one of the first to co-opt cinema into opera; his Christophe Colombe uses a backdrop movie screen to convey the thoughts of his characters, or to extend the action "into an inner universe opening out from our own." Even when his stance had become less outrageous, he retained a penchant for the avant-garde, and provided some suitably spiky music for the Man Ray section of Hans Richter's self-consciously Surrealist Dreams That Money Can Buy.
Milhaud's own musical idiom was nothing if not eclectic. He admired Debussy and Mussorgsky (and detested Wagner), but happily threw in elements of whatever took his fancy—jazz, Brazilian dance rhythms, the medieval troubadour songs of his native Provence. Rather than cast his music in a predetermined style, he preferred to adopt whatever forms and materials seemed appropriate to the given task. This adaptability, together with his fluency (he once defined inspiration as "the amount of ink in my pen"), should have made him an ideal film composer. But his relationship with the movie industry remained oddly uneasy. He believed that his "symphonic" style aroused mistrust among filmmakers, recalling in his memoirs a "rather inquisitorial visit" from Renoir while he was composing the score for Madame Bovary.
This, coupled with a perhaps inadvertent tendency to write down to movie audiences—he felt that film music must "remain modest . . . be extremely simple"—may explain why Milhaud's film scores are mostly less distinguished than might be expected from a composer of his stature. He was at his best with straightforward, light-hearted subjects such as Raymond Bernard's Cavalcade d'amour, a look at love during three periods of history. Each section of the film used a different composer: Milhaud chose the Middle Ages, and produced a fresh, transparent score, whose chamber-music textures breathed Mediterranean sunshine. He later adapted it into a suite for wind quintet, entitled La Cheminée du Roi René.
If offered a subject which genuinely engaged his emotions, Milhaud could still come up with film music that belied his reputation for elegant frivolity. André Malraux's only film, the stark Spanish Civil War drama L'Espoir, has no music until the final reel, when a long procession of villagers winds down a mountainside carrying the bodies of dead Republican airmen. For this wordless sequence, Milhaud supplied an 11-minute passage of sustained and sombre nobility. This too was adapted for concert use, as the Cortège funèbre.
Although Milhaud spent much of his later life in America, he was loath to work in Hollywood, disliking the system of handing over the composer's short score to professional orchestrators "who churn out on a commercial scale musical pathos à la Wagner or Tchaikovsky." The one Hollywood assignment he did accept was The Private Affairs of Bel-Ami, scripted (after Maupassant) and directed by Albert Lewin—"a highly cultured man," Milhaud noted, "and what is even rarer in those circles, genuinely modest." Lewin allowed Milhaud not only to orchestrate his own music, but to conduct it and sit in on the mixing sessions. The result was a score that vividly evoked the Paris of the Belle Epoque, but without the usual wash of romantic nostalgia. This, Milhaud's strutting themes and jaunty brass writing suggested, was a society whose glittering facade concealed callousness and rampant ambition—a vision entirely in keeping with Maupassant's cynical tale of a cad on the make.
The French composer and teacher Darius Milhaud (born 1892) was the main champion of polytonality in the 20th century.
Darius Milhaud was born on Sept. 4, 1892, in Aixen-Provence. His family, descended from a line of Jews established in the region for generations, had the time and means to encourage their son's musical interests: violin lessons at age 7, participation in the quartet organized by his violin teacher at age 13, and studies at the Paris Conservatory (1909-1912) mark the well-planned stages of his student career. Typical of his generation, he voiced a strong distaste for the music of Richard Wagner and an equally strong admiration for Modest Mussorgsky and Claude Debussy. Sensing, nevertheless, the dangers of impressionism for his own development—"too much fog," "too many perfumed breezes"—Milhaud resolved to "break the spell" of Debussy, although "my heart always remained faithful."
Anti-impressionism was undoubtedly one of the two major factors uniting, just after World War I, the group of composers known as Les Six; the author Jean Cocteau was the other. Not a musician and therefore, by his own designation, not eligible for "membership" in the group, Cocteau was nevertheless its guiding spirit. His collaboration with Milhaud resulted in Le Boeuf sur le toit (1919), Le Train bleu (1924), and Le Pauvre matelot (1926). Cocteau also seems to have been responsible for stimulating Milhaud's interest in jazz, which resulted in one of his most enduring works, La Création du monde (1923).
Yet, for all their success, the Cocteau works do not reveal the essential Milhaud. Before Cocteau there had been the experience of yet deeper formative influence: that of the writer Paul Claudel. On first reading Claudel, in 1911, Milhaud was struck by a "force which shakes the human heart… like an element of nature." The two artists began a long collaboration, which Milhaud said was "the best thing of my life as a musician." They collaborated on Agamemnon (1913), Les Choéphores (1915), LesEuménides (1917-1922), Christophe Colomb (1928), Maximilien (1932), Bolívar (1952-1953), and David (1954).
Claudel was minister of France to Brazil (1917-1919) and took Milhaud along as his secretary. In Rio de Janeiro, Milhaud worked out the details of the technique which, rightly or wrongly, came to be particularly identified with his style: polytonality. What had been a "superimposition of chords proceeding by masses" in Les Choéphores was to become in L'Enfant prodigue (1918) a polytonality residing "no longer in chords but in the meetings of lines."
If polytonality was a unifying factor for Milhaud's style, his origins served to define his esthetic: "Latinity, Mediterranean are words which have a deep resonance in me." The locales of his stage works—Greece, Palestine, Mexico, and Brazil—are significant for their strong affinities with his native Provence, and the music of these places furnished him with many melodic and rhythmic ideas. The themes of southern landscape and popular life are so omnipresent in his vocal works that they have tended to obscure his image as a composer of absolute music, that is, music free from extramusical implications.
The number of symphonies (16), concertos (31), and chamber works (about 60) that Milhaud composed is considerable; indeed, in 20th-century terms his production of over 400 works is enormous, a fact which engendered some negative criticism about his work, such as unevenness in quality, inattention to detail, and signs of haste. Such accusations ignore Milhaud's basic motivation as a composer, namely, that the act of creation is more important than the thing created. His production was all the more remarkable in view of his teaching schedule. From 1948 on he spent alternate years in Paris and at Mills College, Calif.
Milhaud's own account is Notes without Music: An Autobiography (1949; trans. 1953). Biographical information on Milhaud is also in Edward Burlingame Hill, Modern French Music (1924; rev. ed. 1970), and David Ewen, The World of Twentieth Century Music (1968). □
MILHAUD, DARIUS (1892–1974), French composer. Milhaud was born in Aix-en-Provence and was descended from an old Jewish family that claimed to have been among the first settlers in southern France after the fall of Jerusalem. He entered the Paris Conservatory at the age of 17, was soon attracted by the theater, and between 1910 and 1916 composed La Brebis egarée, Agamemnon, and Le pauvre matelot. He became acquainted with the composer Eric Satie and the writers Paul Claudel and Jean Cocteau and, when Claudel was appointed French minister to Brazil, he asked Milhaud to become his secretary. Milhaud spent almost two years (1917–18) in Rio de Janeiro, and his musical impressions of Brazil echo in many of his compositions. After his return to Paris, he joined a circle of progressive artists, the musicians of which formed an inner circle later known as "Les Six." A versatile and prolific composer, Milhaud wrote music for concert, stage, and screen, and for voice and orchestra. South American rhythms, U.S. jazz, Jewish synagogal traditions (especially those of his native region, the *Comtat Venaissin), 12-tone music, and trends and styles of great divergence merge in his works. Yet the mixture is always unmistakably his own.
Milhaud's most important contributions to 20th-century music are to be found in some of his operas: Les Choëphores (1915); Esther de Carpentras (1925, with text by Armand *Lunel); Christophe Colomb (1928); Bolivar (1943); and the biblical opera David which Milhaud composed with Lunel for the Jerusalem Festival of 1954. Milhaud wrote concertos for almost every orchestral instrument, ballets, short and full-scale symphonies, chamber music, songs, piano music, and cantatas. Among the best known of his compositions on Jewish themes are his Service Sacré (1947), and two song cycles with piano accompaniment: Poèmes juifs (1916) and Chants populaires hébraïques (1925). He also wrote musical settings of Psalms for solo voices and chorus; the ballet La Création du Monde (1923); a piano suite, Le Candélabre à sept branches (1951); and music for various festival prayers.
When France collapsed in 1940 Milhaud immigrated to the U.S. and became a professor at Mills College, Oakland, California. After 1947 he divided his time between the U.S. and Paris, where he became a professor of composition at the Conservatory. The story of his life and musical beliefs was told in Notes sans musique (1949; Notes Without Music, 1953), which also appeared in Hebrew, and in Entretiens avec Claude Rostand (1952). During his later years Milhaud suffered from rheumatoid arthritis which confined him to a wheelchair for long periods of time.
P. Collaer, Darius Milhaud (Fr., 1947); H.H. Stuckenschmidt, Schoepfer der neuen Musik (1958), 204–16; P. Claudel, Correspondence Paul Claudel and Darius Milhaud 1912–1953 (1961); Grove, Dict.; Riemann-Gurlitt; mgg.
[Peter Emanuel Gradenwitz]