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Episode 1

Duration:
1 hour
First broadcast:
Monday 18 October 2010

Donald Macleod explores the globetrotting world of the 20th century French composer Darius Milhaud. A member of the influential group, Les Six, these days Milhaud's rather unfairly known through just a handful of works. In fact, as this week of his music demonstrates, he was a prolific composer who wrote in every imaginable style for every conceivable combination of instruments. At the time of his death, aged 81, in 1974, his catalogue contained over 440 works.

One of the more fascinating aspects of Milhaud is how the veritable cocktail of musical genres he engaged with mirror his experiences in life. His Provençale childhood gave him a love of the landscape of Southern France and a pride in his ancient Jewish ancestry. A lifelong attachment to literature which began with the symbolist poets of his youth also found musical expression. A great admiration for the music of Debussy and a strong dislike of Wagner, juxtaposes with his interests in the avant garde movement and jazz clubs of 1920s Paris. A sojourn in Brazil during the first world war introduced the rhythms of Latin America, while a later spell in America encouraged a series of symphonies and chamber works.

We begin the week with works that reflect this relationship with the Provençale landscape and his religious roots, including a song from his Poèmes juifs collection, settings of eight anonymous Jewish poems, a movement from his first string quartet, which he dedicated to the Aix-en-Provence born painter Cézanne, and his colourful tapestry of the sunlit colours of the region, Suite Provençale.

Music Played

6 items
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
  • Image for Darius Milhaud

    Darius Milhaud Scaramouche (1930)

    Performer: Christian Forshaw (saxophone) Performer: Stephen de Pledge (piano)

    Integra Records ING 1002, 18

  • Image for Darius Milhaud

    Darius Milhaud Poemes juifs, op 34 (1916)

    Performer: Dawn Upshaw (soprano) Performer: Jérôme Ducros (piano)

    Erato 3984273292, 1

  • Image for Darius Milhaud

    Darius Milhaud First String quartet, op.5 (1912)

    Performer: Quatuor Parisii

    Naïve V4784, 1

  • Image for Darius Milhaud

    Darius Milhaud Suite Provencal

    Performer: Detroit Symphony Orchestra Performer: Neeme Järvi (conductor)

    Chandos Chan 6615, 5 to 12

  • Image for Darius Milhaud

    Darius Milhaud Alissa extract (1913)

    Performer: Florence Katz (mezzo soprano) Performer: Serge Cyferstein (piano)

    Timpani 1C1022, 23 to 25

  • Image for Darius Milhaud

    Darius Milhaud La Creation du Monde, Op 81 (1923)

    Performer: Ulster Orchestra Performer: Yan Pascal Tortelier (conductor)

    Chandos Chan 9023, 13 to 18

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