Darius Milhaud

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Darius Milhaud (French pronunciation: [daʁjys mijo]; 4 September 1892 – 22 June 1974) was a French composer and teacher. He was a member of Les Six—also known as The Group of 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).


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 Gedalge. 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]

In 1925, Milhaud married his cousin, Madeleine (1902 - 2008), an actress and reciter. In 1930 she bore him a son, the painter and sculptor Daniel Milhaud, to be the couple's only child. [2]

The Milhauds 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.[3] The following year, these same pieces were performed at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, by the Paganini and Juilliard Quartet.[4]

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