Milhaud conducts his own works - two definitive readings
Superb sound quality in full glorious stereo for these new XR remasters
First issued on Philips 00-575, recorded June 1958
First issued on Capitol P8358, recorded 10-12 September 1956, Studio A, Capitol Tower, Hollywood USA
Concert Arts Orchestra
conducted by Darius Milhaud
Notes on the transfers:
Both of these recordings were very well made for their era, and in both cases I was able to work from excellent transfers. That said, the originals sounded slightly veiled to modern standards, and I've endeavoured to lift this as best I can with a gentle application of XR remastering. The results bring even more life and vivacity to music which is often already bursting with vigour, and sound truly splendid.
From the LP sleevenotes:
Les Quatre Saisons
Darius Milhaud was born in Aix-en-Provence in 1892 and first became famous as a member of the Parisian group of composers in the 1920's known as "Les Six." He embraced their ideal that music should benefit from folk-art, and he succeeded in a straightforward, undogmatic music that is at its best in his smaller works. It is important to note that these four seasonal concertinos were written at widely different times and together represent at least three different "periods" of the composer's art. The number of soloists and the variety of orchestral accompaniment mean that the four concertinos can scarcely be heard in succession except on record.
The "Concertino de Printemps" was composed at Aix-en-Provence in 1934. In this short work for violin and small instrumental ensemble, we can imagine that Milhaud's polytonal and polyrhythmic skill enabled him to evoke with the greatest ease the innumerable tremors and tensions by which Nature signals its renewal. During the German occupation, Milhaud took refuge in America. A Californian foundation, Mills College, offered him a chair of composition and it was there that Milhaud composed the "Concertino d'Eté" and the "Concertino d'Automne" in 1951.
The first is for a solo viola and wind group with cello and double-bass. The music is at first "supple and lyrical" but the veiled languor of the viola is disturbed by lively interruptions from the wind instruments. A dance rhythm and the increasing crudeness of the colours make the exchanges extremely animated.
The second was written for the famous piano duo Gold and Fizdale, to whom it was dedicated. The eight instruments accompanying the two pianos are flute, oboe, three horns, two violas, and cello. To begin with the atmosphere is heavier here, being dominated by the lower register of the horns. Then the woodwinds introduce a freer episode which, between the flute, piano, and strings, turns into a divertissement.
The "Concertino d'Hiver" was written in September 1953 aboard a ship on which the composer was once more crossing the Atlantic. Commissioned by an American foundation, the work is scored for trombone and strings and was first performed in the spring of 1954. Again, Milhaud tries to detach himself from the clichéd expressions generally bound up with the evocation of the seasons, and he chases away the classic winter fogs by beginning boldly with some cheerful capers from his unexpected soloist, the trombone.
Saudades de Brasil
The Portuguese word saudade is defined as "an ardent longing for an absent thing" The suite, originally for piano solo, was begun in Copenhagen in 1920 and was completed in Aix in the following year. Six of the twelve movements were orchestrated for the dancer, Loie Fuller; later Milhaud orchestrated the other six and added a little overture that is not to be found in the original version.
The Saudades are named after districts, streets, and land-rnarks in Rio. Corcovado (Hunchback) is a famous mountain which rises over the city from the shore of Botofago Bay. Copacabana and Ipanema are beaches; the Rúa Paysandú was the street, bordered with spectacularly tall royal palms, on which the French Legation stood. Milhaud, of course, does not pretend to describe these things in his music; the titles are simply salutes or dedications, and to dwell at length on the literal meaning of each would be both misleading and naive. It would be much to the point, however, to quote one paragraph from the extremely colorful chapter on Milhaud's Brazilian experiences in his autobiography:
I was fascinated with the rhythms of this [Brazilian] popular music. There was an imperceptible pause in the syncopation, a careless catch in the breath, a slight hiatus which I found very difficult to grasp. So I bought a lot of maxixes and tangos and tried to play them with their syncopated rhythms, which run from one hand to the other. At last my efforts were rewarded and I could both play and analyze this typically Brazilian subtlety. One of the best composers of this kind of music, Ernesto Nazareth, used to play the piano at the door of a cinema in the Avenida Rio Branco. His elusive, mournful, liquid way of playing also gave me deeper insight into the Brazilian soul!
Memories of the maxixes and tangos, of the carnival festivities at which they were used, and of the playing of Nazareth (who also taught and inspired the young Villa-Lobos) provide the nostalgic background and imaginative substance for Saudades do Brasil.
Biographical notes from Wikipedia
Darius Milhaud (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, 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.
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. The following year, these same pieces were performed at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, by the Paganini and Juilliard Quartet.
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 (he named his eldest son Darius). In a February 2010 interview with Jazzwax, Brubeck said he attended Mills, at the time an all-girls school, specifically to study with Milhaud; Brubeck: "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."
Milhaud's former students also include two of the seminal figures in America's version of minimalism, Philip Glass and Steve Reich, several arrangers and composers associated with West Coast modern jazz, and popular songwriter Burt Bacharach. Milhaud told Bacharach, "Don't be afraid of writing something people can remember and whistle. Don't ever feel discomfited by a melody".
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 bœuf sur le toit (ballet), 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, aged 81.
Notes from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darius_Milhaud
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