Author Topic: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)  (Read 22885 times)

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Kullervo

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Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« on: April 10, 2008, 05:54:27 PM »
A cursory search returned no thread dedicated to this very prolific composer of whom I would love to hear more. This (excellent) set is all I have so far:



What are your favorite pieces, recordings, etc?

gomro

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2008, 06:06:59 PM »


What are your favorite pieces, recordings, etc?

One piece I wish I could get on CD, with "modern sound," etc. is the Protee suite, which was a really wonderful thing.

Online The new erato

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2008, 09:40:14 PM »
Violin concerto nr 2 is superb and one of my favorites. Try Steinbacker on Orfeo!

pjme

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2008, 12:47:26 AM »
Mon cher Milhaud....! It is a composer I follow since a long time.
Scaramouche (for 2 pianos) opened up a whole world of,at first, easy & lighthearted pieces, later on, strangely intimidating studies in complexity ( stringquartet 14 & 15 can be played together as an octet),massif oratoria and operas...Tango, Brazilian rythms,percussion, Jewish prayers, Biblical scenes, film music : Milhaud's autobiography is called "My happy life" - yet he suffered from a severe form of reumatoid arthritis....
He knew or met Eric Satie, Paul Claudel, Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg, Copland, Kurt Weill,Mitropoulos, Scherchen,Monteux...

My edition of "Ma vie heureuse" ( Belfond / Paris 1973) mentiones 441 works written between 1910 and 1972. Sure, not all of them masterpieces, but, AFAIK, an extravagantly generous and highly personal outpouring of "joie de vivre " and "condition humaine".

Here are a few works I enjoy:
Suite Provençale (1936) -for orchestra . Great 1955 performance of Charles Munch/Boston SO. 8 short pieces ( 18th century Provençal themes & melodies, some by Campra) arranged and orchestrated in a stirring, "folksy" way.

"l'Orestie"  part 1 : Agamemnon (soprano dramatique, male chorus & orchestra /1913)
               part 2: Les Choéphores ( soprano, baritone, reciter,chorus & orch. -1915-1916)
               part 3: Les Euménides ( reciter, various soloists,chorus & orch.1917-1922)
Les Choéphores ( ca 35-40 mins.) is an extraordinary composition and shows Milhaud's talent at its peak. Three parts ( Présages, Exhoration and Conclusion) are written for female reciter ( parlé-rythmé) ,chorus and percussion and still impress today.
Two recordings : Bernstein/NYPO ( Vera Zorina as reciter), Markevitch/Lamoureux ( Claude Nollier reciter). Neither is perfect ( they both show their age sonically, Zorina is weird, Nollier very good, the Paris university chorus ...mediocre). Still, the excitement is there and both versions can be bought cheaply ( SOny /DGG).
A well prpared version of the complete work would be welcome. Les Euménides is  the biggest, longest( ca 90 mins.if I remember well) and most difficult part. The constant polytonality, the intricacy of the many layers ( the voice of the goddess Athena is sung by three sopranos, the people of Athens is represented by a large chorus, a very large orchestra) make it a tough,but intoxicating experience. I'm glad to have witnessed Reinbert De Leeuw's performance in Amsterdam ( June 1988) - draining,but really grandiose (hmm,like a Bruckner or Mahler symphony...!)

Symphonies nr 1,2,3 (with chorus/Te Deum),4 and 8 (Rhodanienne), violinconcerto nr 2, the concerto for two pianos and 4 percussion ( now on Bridge!) , the ballet 'l Homme et son désir, La création du monde, Protée( indeed, a superb work!),the 3rd stringquartet ( with soprano), la mort d'un Tyran ( chorus, clarinet, tuba, piccolo and percussion)....amply prove Milhaud's unique voice,originality & style.

Milhaud composed very easily -sometimes all too easily : one can detect note spinning and banal formulas, rather un-subtle orchestration, in late works a lack of concission or focus ( Pacem in Terris), ungrateful,highlying vocal parts. But much has to be re-discovered, many works never got a second performance. His large scale operas and oratoria (David, Bolivar,Fiesta, La sagesse, La tragédie humaine, Le château de feu...) disappeared from the podia.

There is a healthy dose of Berlioz-like generosity in Milhaud's works. That may help to stand the test of time.

Peter








Kullervo

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2008, 04:26:09 AM »
Illuminating as always. Thanks, PJ.  :)

pjme

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2008, 05:08:25 AM »
One piece I wish I could get on CD, with "modern sound," etc. is the Protee suite, which was a really wonderful thing.

This BBC Carlton can be found on the Internet - at amazon (used).
The performance is OK ( The BBC SO/ Milhaud)- the sound a bit boxy.It isq coupled with the first concerto for two pianos & orch., (parts!!) of the Suite Provençale and 3 fragments from "Les mariés de la tour Eiffel. Maurice Abravanel's version with the UTAH SO should be reissued! But a (complete!!) Protée would be more than welcome.

Peter
« Last Edit: April 14, 2008, 05:12:03 AM by pjme »

Offline violinconcerto

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2008, 05:25:40 AM »
Violin concerto nr 2 is superb and one of my favorites. Try Steinbacker on Orfeo!

I would also recommend the 2nd violin concerto and also his Concertino de printemps, both for violin and orchestra. But I cannot recommend Arabella Steinbac*h*er, because the old but very intense recording with Louis Kaufman, the Orchestre Philharmonique de l'O.R.T.F under Milhaud himself is far better than the recording of Steinbacher! So go for this one and you will get the best recording of the Concertino de printemps too (and the only recording of the fine violin concerto by Sauguet):

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classRev/2003/July03/LouisKaufma1.htm




The other violin+orchestra works are not that good. The first violin concerto is just a short study work, the 3rd violin concerto is ok, but nothing special and the suite francaise I cannot remember right now.
regards,
Tobias
www.tobias-broeker.de

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2008, 05:02:28 PM »
I am afraid that I struggle a bit with Milhaud!

It is not that I dislike his music. Far from it, I find most of it very pleasant, amiable, cheerful. Ultimately, however, I find myself unable to remember one piece from another!

He just seems to have written too much. I have-for example-all of the symphonies and all five of the piano concertos but there just seemed very little which was memorable about any of them. I did make the mistake of playing all of the piano concertos in sequence(which at least was not the mild torture of playing all of Malipiero's piano concertos after each other!).

He reminds me sometimes of Villa-Lobos. Composing obviously came fairly easily to him and compositions flowed from his pen but perhaps not always totally uncritically?

Maybe I am being unfair and maybe I should give the symphonies a second chance?

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2008, 10:15:52 PM »
I am afraid that I struggle a bit with Milhaud!

It is not that I dislike his music. Far from it, I find most of it very pleasant, amiable, cheerful. Ultimately, however, I find myself unable to remember one piece from another!

He just seems to have written too much. I have-for example-all of the symphonies and all five of the piano concertos but there just seemed very little which was memorable about any of them. I did make the mistake of playing all of the piano concertos in sequence(which at least was not the mild torture of playing all of Malipiero's piano concertos after each other!).

He reminds me sometimes of Villa-Lobos. Composing obviously came fairly easily to him and compositions flowed from his pen but perhaps not always totally uncritically?

Maybe I am being unfair and maybe I should give the symphonies a second chance?

Very much in agreement here. I have the box set of all the symphonies but I never play them. Which is the best? I will have another go with it.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Online The new erato

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2008, 02:37:31 AM »
I would also recommend the 2nd violin concerto and also his Concertino de printemps, both for violin and orchestra. But I cannot recommend Arabella Steinbac*h*er, because the old but very intense recording with Louis Kaufman, the Orchestre Philharmonique de l'O.R.T.F under Milhaud himself is far better than the recording of Steinbacher! So go for this one and you will get the best recording of the Concertino de printemps too (and the only recording of the fine violin concerto by Sauguet):

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classRev/2003/July03/LouisKaufma1.htm




The other violin+orchestra works are not that good. The first violin concerto is just a short study work, the 3rd violin concerto is ok, but nothing special and the suite francaise I cannot remember right now.

Agree about the Kaufman and I have it of course.....

Online The new erato

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2008, 02:39:03 AM »
Very much in agreement here. I have the box set of all the symphonies but I never play them. Which is the best? I will have another go with it.

If not there's always room for another refusal bin...

pjme

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2008, 03:44:17 AM »
Well, I wonder what Bernstein or Markevitch would have made of these symphonies. !! Alun Francis and the Basle SO are correct, but nothing more than that. Milhaud's own conducting of nrs 3,4 and 8 is superior ( and the ORTF Phil.isn't the Chicago symphony either...).

Bernstein gives a very good account of La création du monde (French Nat.O).

Peter






karlhenning

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2008, 03:51:52 AM »
Very much in agreement here. I have the box set of all the symphonies but I never play them. Which is the best? I will have another go with it.

Hear, hear. Agreeable stuff, well enough made;  my ears don't find a lot of traction.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2008, 05:42:48 AM »
Well, I wonder what Bernstein or Markevitch would have made of these symphonies. !! Alun Francis and the Basle SO are correct, but nothing more than that. Milhaud's own conducting of nrs 3,4 and 8 is superior ( and the ORTF Phil.isn't the Chicago symphony either...).

Bernstein gives a very good account of La création du monde (French Nat.O).

Peter









I have no doubt that music like this deserves the best possible interpretation to make it come to life. A number of great conductors of the past used to champion unfashionable composers-one thinks of Beecham, for example, for (almost) single-handedly championing Delius and who was noted for his sparkling performances of music like Goldmark's Rustic Wedding Symphony. Barbirolli and Boult were other British conductors who were enthusiastic about the music of apparently lesser composers. In our own time, Handley and Hickox have done the same(and the late lamented Bryden Thomson.) Bernstein was enthusiastic about much American music as well as the great classics of the repertoire.

Nowadays-sadly-this is much less the case. The most famous conductors seldom perform repertoire out of the mainstream.

Yes, no doubt Alun Francis's performances of the Milhaud symphonies are no more than 'correct' but we are probably unlikely to get much better unless we go back to the now aged recordings made by Milhaud himself. At least conductors like Francis, Werner Andreas Albert, David Porcelijn and CPO's other regulars or David Lloyd-Jones for Naxos, for example, are obviously happy to explore unusual repertoire.

(I think that I am beginning to sound like a marketing officer for CPO on this forum! :))

Offline edward

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2008, 07:25:32 AM »
Hear, hear. Agreeable stuff, well enough made;  my ears don't find a lot of traction.
I'll toss in yet another seconding for this view: I never fail to enjoy Milhaud but I'm not drawn back as I am with his Six-fellows Honegger and Poulenc.
"I don't at all mind actively disliking a piece of contemporary music, but in order to feel happy about it I must consciously understand why I dislike it. Otherwise it remains in my mind as unfinished business."
 -- Aaron Copland, The Pleasures of Music

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #15 on: April 15, 2008, 07:55:18 AM »
I love Milhaud's Suite for Ondes Martenot and piano (also arranged for Ondes and String Quartet by Takashi Harada). The closing Elegie is aboslutely haunting. It has been recorded, both in its original piano form and the arrangement for string quartet. I doubt either is available now however.

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

pjme

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #16 on: April 18, 2008, 08:36:50 AM »
I listened again to Milhaud's second symphony (1944- -dedicated to Nathalie Koussevitsky.
5 mouvements : Paisible (peaceful) - Mystérieux (mysterious) - Douloureux(painful) - Avec sérénité (with serenity) - Alleluia

It is a funereal work, mostly dark and dramatic. Quite impressive and beautiful.



Plasson / Toulouse - excellent!

Peter

Offline hautbois

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #17 on: April 20, 2008, 07:00:42 AM »
I admiration for Milhaud boils down mostly towards his chamber music for winds, which are always witty, cheerful, sarcastic, and fun.

Howard

Offline Josquin des Prez

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #18 on: April 20, 2008, 10:10:23 AM »
Isn't this the guy who said that Brahms was "bogus genius"? So amusing coming from the bogus composer.

pjme

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Re: Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
« Reply #19 on: April 21, 2008, 05:45:19 AM »
Here's a compact & clear bio:

Darius Milhaud 1892–1974
by Ronald Crichton

Darius Milhaud, the French composer, died in Geneva on June 22; he was 81.

Milhaud was born in 1892 at Aix-en-Provence where his father, of Jewish descent and religion, was an almond merchant. There can be few active musicians able to remember a time when Milhaud’s name was not familiar, fewer still who can claim knowledge of the vast quantity of work produced during a long career by this incessantly prolific and versatile composer. Milhaud’s musical training began in his native city. At the age of 17 he went to the Paris Conservatoire. His teachers were Dukas, Leroux and Gédalge. Among his friends were Auric and Honegger. Of equal if not greater importance were literary friendships with, for example, Jammes and Claudel, two of the great influences (Gide was the third) on the early years of Milhaud’s career. By 1917, when Claudel took Milhaud to Rio de Janeiro as a member of his ambassadorial staff, the composer had set La brebis égarée of Jammes as an opera, Alissa, prose excerpts from Gide’s La Porte étroite for voice and piano, and the first two parts (Agamemnon and Les choéphores) of Claudel’s Oresteia trilogy. Milhaud later described the visit to Latin America as the equivalent for him of a stay in Rome (the war of 1914 had prevented his competing for the Prix de Rome). Brazil brought him into fruitful contact with a civilisation half-Latin, half-exotic, with Latin-American popular music and with jazz. When he returned to post-war Paris he won notoriety with such works as Machines agricoles, Le boeuf sur le toit, La création du monde, Le train bleu, and the three tiny opéras-minutes written for Germany. He was a member of the group Les Six, and although his style was already formed, and although the group’s mentor Cocteau was never so deep an influence on Milhaud as the writers mentioned earlier, the glitter of that brilliant butterfly period has stuck. The fading in the 30s was symbolized, in Milhaud’s case, by the cool reception given to his Maximilien at the Paris Opéra in 1932. But the output flowed on, only briefly interrupted by a painful uprooting from his homeland in 1940. The years after the Armistice were spent in the USA at Mills College, where Pierre Monteux and other friends had obtained him a teaching post. Milhaud, who had for some years been an invalid confined by rheumatic afflictions to a wheelchair, nursed by his devoted wife, returned to France in 1947, and was offered the post of professor of composition at the Paris Conservatoire. He spent alternative academic years in Paris and at Mills. For many years he attended the summer music school at Aspen, Colorado, and taught at a number of other establishments in the USA. In spite of ill-health, and of persistent attachment to Paris and to his native Provence, Milhaud remained a willing, indefatigable traveller.

The label ‘member of Les Six’ is emphatically not enough. It is not easy to pin him down. The Jewish-Provençal background was important. It led directly to some of his best works, to the Poèmes juifs (1916), to operas with texts by his compatriot Armand Lunel – Les malheurs d’Orphée (1924) and Esther de Carpentras (1938, written earlier), to the Suite provençale (1936), and it lends a melancholy pastoral colour to other scores not overtly of Provençal or Jewish origin. Milhaud’s style set early and evolved hardly at all. He seems, in spite of a fondness for working with themes from past composers, especially of the 18th century, to have taken little from other people or other periods. He gave more than one explanation of the origins of his use of polytonality, which he regarded as a Latin solution to the problem of the decay of tonality. One was a recurrent, quasi-mystical experience at night in the country, when he felt rays and tremors converging on him from all points of the sky and from below ground, each bearing its own music – ‘a thousand simultaneous musics rushing towards me from all directions.’ Another explanation of the origin was the study of a duetto by Bach in which the original entries of the two voices appeared to be in different keys. Milhaud never erected polytonality into a system. It was more a question of colour, adding a characteristic tang to the melodic and contrapuntal facility, sometimes clarifying the texture, sometimes, in the later music especially, making it opaque. Side by side with the Latin qualities of Milhaud’s music there exists a strain of expressionism, a penchant for thick timbres. Like many French musicians of his generation, he rejected Wagner and Brahms, but he accepted Mahler and Strauss. Schoenberg, whom he admired greatly, was a friend of many years standing.

In a series of radio interviews (published as Entretiens avec Claude Rostand(, Paris, 1952), Milhaud drew attention to his simultaneous and continuous cultivation of a number of musical forms which he listed in order of importance as: large operas, chamber music, symphonic works, concertos, music for chamber orchestra or small combinations, musique de divertissement (not quite the same thing as light music), ballets, works using or deriving from folk music, works ‘after’ classical composers. The Heugel catalogue stops in 1956 at op. 354. In the feature devoted to Milhaud after his death, Le Monde gave the total as 426 works. This terrifying figure includes several large operas or opera-oratorios – the Oresteia trilogy, Christophe Colomb (1930), Maximilien, Bolivar (1950), David (1952), Saint-Louis, Roi de France (1972). To the smaller operas mentioned above should be added Le pauvre matelot (1927) and Médée (1939). Among the chamber music are eighteen string quartets, of which nos. 14 and 15 may be played together as an octet. Milhaud, who in the 20s had written six ‘little’ symphonies for small combinations, waited until he was nearly 50 before embarking in 1939 on a series of 12 symphonies for full orchestra (the Third has a choral finale). There are many choral works, a mass of film scores and incidental music for the theatre, a number of undeservedly neglected songs. Among his prose writings is a volume of memoirs, Notes sans musique (Paris, 1949, translated 1952), which includes a chapter on the death of Satie. Milhaud had an air of inner serenity and benign authority which impressed those who had even the slightest acquaintance with him, and won him the affection and respect of musicians of all tendencies and ages. At this stage the least one can say is that when the dust has settled and the grain has been separated from the chaff, there should remain a balance-sheet of which any composer might be proud.

Musical Times, August 1974
 
 

 

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