Les Six

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Les six is a name, inspired by The Five, given in 1923 by critic Henri Collet in an article titled "Les cinq Russes, les six Français et M. Satie" (Comoedia, 16 January 1920) to a group of six composers working in Montparnasse whose music is often seen as a reaction against the musical style of Richard Wagner and impressionist music.



Formally, the Groupe des six members were:

Les nouveaux jeunes

In 1917, when many theatres and concert halls were closed because of World War I, Blaise Cendrars and the painter Moise Kisling decided to put on a concert at 6 Rue Huyghens, the studio of the painter Emile Lejeune. For this event, the walls of the studio were decorated with canvases by Picasso, Matisse, Léger, Modigliani and others. Music by Erik Satie, Honegger, Auric and Durey was played. It was this concert that gave Satie the idea of assembling a group of composers around himself to be known as Les nouveaux jeunes, forerunners of Les six.

Les six

According to Milhaud:

But that is only one reading of how the Groupe des six originated: other authors, like Ornella Volta, would stress the manoeuvrings of Jean Cocteau to become the leader of an avant-garde group devoted to music, like the cubist and surrealist groups had sprung in visual arts and literature shortly before, with Pablo Picasso, Guillaume Apollinaire and André Breton as their key representatives. The fact that Satie had abandoned the Nouveaux jeunes less than a year after starting the group, was the "gift from heaven" that made it all come true for Cocteau: his 1918 publication Le coq et l'Arlequin is said to have ticked it off.

After World War I, Jean Cocteau and Les six began to frequent a bar known as "La gaya" which became Le bœuf sur le toit (The Ox on the Roof) when the establishment moved to larger quarters and as the famous ballet by Milhaud had been conceived at the old premises, the new bar took on the name of Milhaud's ballet[1]. On the renamed bar's opening night, pianist Jean Wiéner played tunes by George Gershwin and Vincent Youmans while Cocteau and Milhaud played percussion. Among those in attendance were Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev, Pablo Picasso, filmmaker René Clair, singer Jane Bathori, and Maurice Chevalier.

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