Darius Milhaud

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Milhaud, Darius

(däryüs` mēyō`), 1892–1974, French composer. Milhaud studied at the Paris Conservatory. In Brazil (1917–19) as an aide to Paul ClaudelClaudel, Paul
, 1868–1955, French dramatist, poet, and diplomat. He was ambassador to Tokyo (1921–27), Washington, D.C. (1927–33), and Brussels (1933–35).
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, poet and French minister to Brazil, he became acquainted with Brazilian folk music. Upon his return to France, he became one of the group known as Les SixSix, Les
, a short-lived group of six young early 20th-century French musicians. They were united by their adverse reactions to the extravagant impressionism of French composers such as Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel and the overwrought romanticism of Germans such as Richard
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. Milhaud became professor of composition at Mills College, Oakland, Calif., in 1940. He is especially celebrated as a composer for the stage; his operas include Le Pauvre Matelot (1927; libretto by Jean CocteauCocteau, Jean
, 1889–1963, French writer, visual artist, and filmmaker. He experimented audaciously in almost every artistic medium, becoming a leader of the French avant-garde in the 1920s.
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) and Christophe Colombe (1930; libretto by Claudel). Milhaud's outstanding ballets are La Création du Monde (1923) and Le Boeuf sur le toit; or, The Nothing Doing Bar (1920). A prolific composer, Milhaud also wrote symphonies, concertos, orchestral music, chamber music, and songs. He was among the first to exploit polytonality and developed new rhythmic structures influenced by Brazilian and jazz elements.


See his autobiography, Notes without Music (tr. 1953, repr. 1970).

Milhaud, Darius


Born Sept. 4, 1892, in Aix-en-Provence; died June 22, 1974, in Geneva. French composer, conductor, music critic, and teacher. Member of the Institute of France from 1956.

Milhaud was a member of the creative group known as “Les Six.” In the 1920’s he performed as a conductor. (In 1926 he appeared in the USSR.) He began participating in the work of the National Music Federation in 1936. While France was occupied by the fascist Germans (1940–44), he lived in the USA. In 1945 he became a professor at the Paris Conservatory. He also taught at music schools in the USA.

In many of his works Milhaud drew on themes from the history of the national liberation struggle (for example, the opera Bolivar [1943], which is about the national hero of Latin America, and the cantata The Fiery Castle [1954], which is dedicated to the memory of the victims of fascist concentration camps). His compositions include the operas The Misfortunes of Orpheus (1924), The Poor Sailor (1926), Christopher Columbus (1928), and Fiesta (1958) and the ballets The Nothing-Doing Bar (Le Boeufsur le toit, 1919) and The Blue Train (1924). He also composed 12 symphonies, 18 string quartets, and music for films, and he produced adaptations of French, Brazilian, Negro, and Jewish songs. Milhaud wrote a number of articles and books, including an autobiography (excerpts in Russian translation under the title “Notes Without Music” in Sovetskaia muzyka, 1963, nos. 2, 3).


Krein, lu. “D. Miio.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1957, no. 8.
“Govorit Darius Miio.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1962, no. 9.
Shneerson, G. Frantsuzskaia muzyka XX veka, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1970.
Roy, J. Darius Milhaud: L’homme et son oeuvre. Paris, 1968.