Darius Milhaud

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Darius Milhaud around 1926

Darius Milhaud ([ miˈjo ]; born September 4, 1892 in Marseille ; † June 22, 1974 in Geneva ) was a French composer .


Milhaud came from a wealthy, long-established Jewish - Provencal family. Although he was born in Marseille, he grew up in Aix-en-Provence . According to his own testimony, the geographical and religious origins remained of strong formative influence for him throughout his life.

His systematic music education began at the age of 7 with taking up violin lessons. He wrote his first own compositions in 1905. In 1909 he continued his violin studies at the Paris Conservatory , but gave up these three years later in favor of composing. He studied with André Gedalge ( counterpoint , composition ), Charles-Marie Widor (composition) and Vincent d'Indy (conducting). In Gedalges courses he got to know Arthur Honegger and Jacques Ibert , among others . During this time, mainly songs based on poems by contemporary French poets and a first opera ( La brebis égarée , 1910–1915) were written.

In 1912 he became acquainted with the poet Paul Claudel , with whom he was to be linked by a lifelong friendship and artistic collaboration. When Claudel was sent to the then Brazilian capital Rio de Janeiro as the French ambassador in 1916 , Milhaud, released from service in the First World War , accompanied him to South America as his attaché . There he got to know the Brazilian folklore and popular music, which would have a strong influence on his music in the following years.

In 1918 he returned to France. He had contact with the circle around Jean Cocteau and Erik Satie and eventually belonged to the Groupe des Six . His compositions brought him first successes, but also scandals.

In 1925 he married his cousin Madeleine . In Paris in the early 1930s, he met regularly with fellow composers Barraine , Honegger, Ibert and Messiaen in the salon of the Dutch composer Rosy Wertheim .

After the outbreak of the Second World War , Milhaud and his wife emigrated to the USA and became a teacher of composition at Mills College in Oakland (until 1971). From 1948 he also led a composition class at the Paris Conservatory (until 1972). In the following years he taught alternately on both continents. His lessons were attended by artists as diverse as the jazz musician Dave Brubeck , the minimalist Steve Reich , the symphonic composer Allan Pettersson and the avant-garde artists Karlheinz Stockhausen , Larry Austin and Iannis Xenakis .

In 1943 he was an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters , 1950 an honorary member of the International Society for Contemporary Music ISCM ( International Society for Contemporary Music ), and in the 1959 American Academy of Arts and Sciences selected. In 1967 he received the Ludwig Spohr Prize of the city of Braunschweig . From 1972 Milhaud was a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts as the successor to Marcel Dupré . He was also a member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts .


Milhaud was an extremely productive composer (his catalog raisonné contains more than 400 entries) who worked in all major traditional music genres (opera, symphonic music, concerts, chamber and vocal music, songs).

He saw himself strongly influenced by the music of the Mediterranean (especially the Italian), but little influenced by German music. Despite all the diversity of his work, it is characterized by a pronounced melody , a pronounced sense of sound with a largely renunciation of strict and formal techniques of composition . In harmony Milhaud frequently used bi- / polytonality . Also polyrhythms found in his works. One of his best known chamber music works is Scaramouche for two pianos, which he arranged for many ensembles, including saxophone and wind quintet . Of all the composers of his and older generations who set themselves the task of at least one composition to integrate the then newly emerging jazz or at least its music-making phenomena into their compositions (the best-known among them were Stravinsky , Hindemith , Shostakovich , Satie and Schulhoff ) Darius Milhaud was the one who came closest to this music as a classical composer.

Film music

In 1939 he worked with Arthur Honegger and Roger Désormière and wrote the music for a film by Raymond Bernard called Cavalcade d'amour . The film consisted of three parts, about lighthearted men and the varieties of love that took place in 1430, 1830 and 1930. Each of the three composers chose an epoch to compose for. Milhaud decided on the period around 1430 and chose the story of a troubadour from his homeland, René d´Anjou , a Comte de Provence. King René liked to relax in a windless area in the country under the open sky with a picnic. This place was named La cheminée du roi René . This film music became Milhaud's most famous and popular wind quintet with imaginary scenes from the life of King René with a procession ( Cortège ), a morning serenade ( Aubade ) and jugglers ( Jugglers ), a description of the local area ( La Maousinglade ), boat competitions on the River Arc ( Joutes sur l 'Arc ) a hunting scene ( Chasse à Valabre ) and ends with a night scene ( Madrigal Nocturne ). The world premiere took place after Milhaud's escape at the University of Southern California in 1941 by the San Francisco Wind Quintet .

The Suite d´après Corrette is based on some themes by the French composer Michel Corrette , which Milhaud worked on very freely. It is dedicated to the Trio d´Anches , a very famous wind ensemble at the time.

The Divertissement en trois Parties for wind quintet was written in April 1958. It's a soundtrack for the film Gauguin by Alain Resnais . The opus number here is not chronological. The titles of the three movements are Balance (with a Provencal theme), Dramatique (with extreme chords) and Joyeux (polyrhythmic). You can feel the kinship with his wind quintet La cheminée du roi René, 20 years his senior, especially in the last movement . Here the musical development of Milhaud becomes clear in a generation with a world war in between.

The Four Sketches for wind quintet were published in the same year as the orchestral version in 1941. Similar to the Suite d'après Corrette, they begin with a theme in the oboe . The title Pastoral corresponds to the Eglogue in the orchestral version and comes here as the third movement after the madrigal .


The new building of the Conservatory in Aix-en-Provence Conservatoire Darius Milhaud was named in his honor. The building in the city center, designed by the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma , contains a concert hall with 500 seats and a stage area of ​​240 m².

Works (selection)


  • Notes without music - an autobiography , Munich: Prestel Verlag, 1962, revised edition Ma vie heureuse (My happy life), Paris: Belfond, 1973

Works for orchestra

Works for wind orchestra

Works for piano

  • 1913 Suite op.8
  • 1916 Sonata No. 1 op.33
  • 1919 Le bœuf sur le toît for piano four hands
  • 1920 Le Printemps: II op.66, 3 pieces
  • 1932 L'Automne op.115, 3 pieces
  • 1936 Scaramouche for two pianos
  • 1948 Paris for four pianos
  • 1949 Sonata No. 2 op. 293
  • 1950 Jeu op. 303

Stage works

  • La Brebis égarée (1910-1914). Roman musical in 3 acts (20 images). Libretto: Francis Jammes . Premiere December 10, 1923 Paris ( Opéra-Comique )
  • L'Orestie d'Eschyle . Trilogy (1913-1922). Libretto: Paul Claudel (based on Aeschylus ). Scenic premiere April 24, 1963 Berlin ( Deutsche Oper )
    • Agamemnon (1913). Incidental music for soprano, male choir and orchestra. WP (concert version) April 14, 1927 Paris (Concerts Straram)
    • Les Choéphores (1915-1916). 7 stage music for soprano, baritone, speaker, mixed choir, percussion and orchestra. WP (concert version) 1919; (scenic) March 27, 1935, Brussels ( Théâtre de la Monnaie )
    • Les Euménides (1917-1922). Opera in 3 acts. WP (concert version) November 18, 1949 Brussels ( Radio INR )
  • Les Malheurs d'Orphée . Opera in 3 acts. Libretto: Armand Lunel (1892–1977). Premiere May 7, 1926 Brussels (Théâtre de la Monnaie)
  • Esther de Carpentras (1925-1927). Opéra bouffe in 2 acts. Libretto: Armand Lunel. WP (concert version) 1937 (Radio Rennes); (scenic) February 1, 1938 Paris ( Opéra-Comique )
  • Le pauvre matelot ( The poor sailor ; 1926). Complainte (lament) in 3 acts and three pictures. Libretto: Jean Cocteau . WP (1st version) December 16, 1927 Paris ( Opéra-Comique ); (2nd version with chamber orchestra) November 15, 1934 Geneva
  • Les Opéras-minute (1927). Trilogy. Libretti: Henri Hoppenot (1891–1977)
    • L'Enlèvement d'Europe . 8 scenes for solos, vocal sextet and orchestra. Premiere July 17, 1927 Baden-Baden (Chamber Music Festival)
    • L'Abandon d'Ariane . 5 scenes for solos, vocal sextet and orchestra. WP April 20, 1928 Wiesbaden (State Theater)
    • La Délivrance de Thésée . 6 scenes for solos, vocal quartet and orchestra. WP April 20, 1928 Wiesbaden (State Theater)
  • Christophe Colomb (1928). Opera in 2 acts (27 images). Libretto: Paul Claudel. Premiere May 5, 1930 Berlin ( State Opera Unter den Linden ). 2nd version (1954/56): WP (concert version) June 2, 1956 Paris ( Théâtre des Champs-Élysées ); (scenic) June 1968 Graz (Summer Games)
  • Maximilien (1930-1931). Historical opera in 3 acts (9 pictures). Libretto: Franz Werfel , Rudolf Stephan Hoffmann, Armand Lunel. Premiere January 5, 1932 Paris ( Opéra )
  • Médée (1938). Opera in one act (3 pictures). Libretto: Madeleine Milhaud . Premiere 7 October 1939 Antwerp (Opéra Flamand)
  • Bolivar (1943). Opera in 3 acts (10 pictures). Libretto: Jules Supervielle , Madeleine Milhaud. Premiere May 12, 1950 Paris (Opéra)
  • David (1952-1953). Opera in 5 acts. Libretto: Armand Lunel. WP (in concert) June 1, 1954 Jerusalem; (scenic) February 2, 1955 Milan ( Teatro alla Scala )
  • Fiesta (1958). Opera in one act. Libretto: Boris Vian . Premiere October 3, 1958 Berlin (Deutsche Oper)
  • La Mère coupable (1964-1965). Opera in 3 acts. Libretto: Madeleine Milhaud (based on Beaumarchais). Premiere June 13, 1966 Geneva ( Grand Théâtre de Genève )
  • Saint-Louis roi de France (1970). Opera oratorio in 2 parts. Libretto: Paul Claudel, Henri Doublier. WP (in concert) March 18, 1972 Rome (RAI); (scenic) April 14, 1972 Rio de Janeiro ( Theatro Municipal )

Chamber music

(the 14th and 15th string quartet can be played individually or performed together as a string octet).
  • 1918 Sonata for piano, flute, clarinet and oboe op.47
  • 1922 Sonatina for flute and piano op.76
  • 1927 Sonatina for clarinet and piano op.100
  • 1939 La Cheminée du roi René op.205 for wind quintet
  • 1937 Suite d`apres Corrette op.161b for oboe, clarinet and bassoon
  • 1958 Divertissement en trois parties op.299b for wind quintet
  • 1935 Pastorale op.147 for oboe, clarinet and bassoon
  • 1940 Sonatina for 2 violins op.221
  • 1940 Sonatina for violin and viola op.226
  • 1941 Two Sketches op.227b for wind quintet
  • 1945 Elegy for violoncello and piano op.251
  • 1954 Sonatina for oboe and piano op.337
  • Concert d´hiver: Concerto for trombone and string orchestra
  • Suite Le voyageur sans bagage for clarinet, violin and piano

Vocal music

  • 1919 Machines agricoles op.56 for a voice and 7 instrumentalists (setting of texts from an agricultural machine catalog)
  • 6 sonnets , op.266 for vocal quartet (SATB)
La barque funeraire
Mort à tout fortune
La peine si le coeur vous a considerées
Bois cette cup de ténèbres
C'était une chanson
Quel est ton nom?

Web links

Commons : Darius Milhaud  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Honorary Members: Darius Milhaud. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed March 16, 2019 .
  2. ^ ISCM Honorary Members
  3. Auditorium, Darius Milhaud Conservatoire ( Memento from April 1, 2015 in the Internet Archive )