Darius Milhaud

Darius Milhaud

born on 4/9/1892 in Aix-en-Provence, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France

died on 22/6/1974 in Genève, GE, Switzerland

Darius Milhaud

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Darius Milhaud (French pronunciation: [dajys mijo]; 4 September 1892 22 June 1974) was a French composer and teacher. He was a member of Les Sixalso known as The Group of Sixand one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century. His compositions are influenced by jazz and make use of polytonality. Darius Milhaud is to be counted among the modernist composers.[1]

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. From 1917 to 1919, he served as secretary to Paul Claudel, the eminent poet and dramatist who was then the 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, [2] 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.[2]

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, who was the couple's only child.[3]

The rise of Nazism forced the Milhauds to leave France in 1940 and emigrate to the United States (his Jewish background made it impossible for Milhaud to return to his native country until after its Liberation).[4] 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 Quartet's performance of his 15th; and then both ensembles played the two pieces together as an octet.[5] The following year, these same pieces were performed at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, by the Paganini and Juilliard Quartets.[6]

The jazz pianist Dave Brubeck became one of Milhaud's most famous students when Brubeck furthered his music studies at Mills College in the late 1940s. In a February 2010 interview with Jazzwax, Brubeck said he attended Mills, a women's college (men were allowed in graduate programs), specifically to study with Milhaud, saying, "Milhaud was an enormously gifted classical composer and teacher who loved jazz and incorporated it into his work. My older brother Howard was his assistant and had taken all of his classes."[7] Brubeck named his first son Darius.

Milhaud's former students also include popular songwriter Burt Bacharach.[8] Milhaud told Bacharach, "Don't be afraid of writing something people can remember and whistle. Don't ever feel discomfited by a melody".[9]

Milhaud (like his contemporaries Paul Hindemith, Gian Francesco Malipiero, Alan Hovhaness, Bohuslav Martin and Heitor Villa-Lobos) was an extremely rapid creator, for whom the art of writing music seemed almost as natural as breathing. His most popular works include Le buf sur le toit (a ballet which lent its name to the legendary cabaret frequented by Milhaud and other members of Les Six), La création du monde (a ballet for small orchestra with solo saxophone, influenced by jazz), Scaramouche (for saxophone and piano, also for two pianos), and Saudades do Brasil (dance suite). His autobiography is titled Notes sans musique (Notes Without Music), later revised as Ma vie heureuse (My Happy Life).

From 1947 to 1971, he taught alternate years at Mills and the Paris Conservatoire, until poor health, which caused him to use a wheelchair during his later years (beginning sometime before 1947), compelled him to retire. He died in Geneva at the age of 81.


Darius Milhaud was very prolific and composed for a wide range of genres. His opus list ended at 443.

See List of compositions by Darius Milhaud.
See also:

Notable students

Archival collections

  • There is a Darius Milhaud Collection at Mills College in California.
  • There is another Darius Milhaud Collection at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in New York City.
  • The Western Jewish History Center, of the Judah L. Magnes Museum, in Berkeley, California has librettos for Milhaud's opera, David, as well as a program for its American premiere, in Los Angeles, at the Hollywood Bowl, and photocopies of newspaper coverage in the B'nai B'rith Messenger of Los Angeles, of this event (1956) [WJHC Collection Number 1970.002].


  1. Reinhold Brinkmann & Christoph Wolff, Driven into Paradise: The Musical Migration from Nazi Germany to the United States (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1999), 133. ISBN 0-520-21413-7
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Milhaud - La création du monde" (of Darius Milhaud, English language), Pomona College, Department of Music, 1999, webpage: PomonaEdu-Milhaud-Creation.
  3. The Independent. Obituary, 31 March 2008. London.
  4. Madeleine and Darius Milhaud, Hélène and Henri Hoppenot, Conversation: Correspondance 1918-1974, complétée par des pages du Journal dHélène Hoppenot, ed. Marie France Mousli (Paris: Gallimard, 2006), 18284.
  5. Mills College program of August 10, 1949, in Archives of Henri Temianka Estate
  6. Aspen Institute program of July 26, 1950, in Archives of Henri Temianka Estate
  7. http://www.jazzwax.com/2010/02/interview-dave-brubeck-part-2.html
  8. Mihai Cucos, "A Few Points about Burt Bacharach ", Perspectives of New Music 43, no. 1 (Winter 2005): 198211. Citation on 200.
  9. Mihai Cucos, "A Few Points about Burt Bacharach ", Perspectives of New Music 43, no. 1 (Winter 2005): 198211. Citation on 205.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Darius Milhaud

  • Complete categorized list of Darius Milhaud's composed works, with opus numbers.
  • Darius Milhaud biography and works on the UE website (publisher)
  • Biography and audio from Service Sacrée at the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music
  • Darius Milhaud 1892-1974 by Ronald Crichton. Musical Times, August 1974.
  • The Boeuf Chronicles How the ox got on the roof: Darius Milhaud and the Brazilian sources of "Le Boeuf sur le Toit" by Daniella Thompson.
  • Darius Milhaud's maximum card from Israel
  • [1] - Riccardo Caramella performs the Fantaisie pastorale, Suite Provençale, and Le carnaval d'Aix
  • [2] - Part 2 of Jazzwax interview with Dave Brubeck, in which Milhaud is discussed in detail.
  • (French) A biography of Darius Milhaud, from IRCAM's website.
  • Free scores by Darius Milhaud in the International Music Score Library Project
  • Frantiek Sláma (musician) Archive. More on the history of the Czech Philharmonic between the 1940s and the 1980s: Conductors
This page was last modified 23.03.2013 21:43:05

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