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Darius Milhaud

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Darius Milhaud


Darius Milhaud (4 September 1892, Aix-en-Provence, France - 22 June 1974 Geneva, Swizterland) was a French composer and educator.

Born to a Jewish family, 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, harmony and counterpoint with André Gédalge and studied privately with Vincent d'Indy. He was a member of Les Six - also known as the Groupe des Six - and one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century. His compositions are particularly noted as being influenced by jazz and for their use of polytonality. 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 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, which left a great impact on his musical outlook. Using some jazz movements, the following year he finished composing La Creation du Monde ("The Creation of the World"), which was cast as a ballet in six continuous dance scenes.

He 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 World War II). He secured a teaching position at Mills College in Oakland, California. Legendary jazz pianist Dave Brubeck arguably became Milhaud's most famous student when Brubeck furthered his music studies at Mills College in the late 1940s.

Milhaud (like his contemporaries Paul Hindemith, Gian Francesco Malipiero, Bohuslav Martinů 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 Boeuf sur le Toit (ballet), La Creation du Monde (a ballet for small orchestra with solo saxophone, influenced by jazz), Scaramouche (for Saxophone and Orchestra, also for two pianos), and Saudades do Brasil (dance suite).

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.

Works for Winds