Les Six


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Six, Les

(lā sēs), 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 DebussyDebussy, Claude Achille
, 1862–1918, French composer, exponent of musical impressionism. He studied for 11 years at the Paris Conservatory, receiving its Grand Prix de Rome in 1884 for his cantata L'Enfant Prodigue.
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 and Maurice RavelRavel, Maurice
, 1875–1937, French composer, b. in the Pyrenees. He entered the Paris Conservatory in 1889, where he was later a student of Fauré. Ravel became a leading exponent of impressionism.
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 and the overwrought romanticism of Germans such as Richard WagnerWagner, Richard
, 1813–83, German composer, b. Leipzig. Life and Work

Wagner was reared in a theatrical family, had a classical education, and began composing at 17.
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 and Richard StraussStrauss, Richard
, 1864–1949, German composer. Strauss brought to a culmination the development of the 19th-century symphonic poem, and was a leading composer of romantic opera in the early 20th cent.
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. The group's name was coined in 1920 by the music critic Henri Collet. Inspired by the cool, abstract, and relatively unadorned compositions of Erik SatieSatie, Erik
, 1866–1925, French composer, studied at the Paris Conservatory; pupil of Vincent D'Indy and Albert Roussel at the Schola Cantorum. He early realized that the romantic Wagnerian style was incompatible with the expression of French sensibility, and he developed
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 and by the works of 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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, their literary prophet and spokesman, Les Six attempted to write in a more simplified, sophisticated, and often jazzily rhythmic fashion. Nonetheless, all of the composers maintained their own distinctive styles. Les Six consisted of Arthur HoneggerHonegger, Arthur
, 1892–1955, Swiss-French composer, studied at the conservatories of Zürich and Paris. One of the group of Parisian composers called Les Six, he wrote music ranging from satire to intensely religious works that are marked by incisive rhythms and sharp
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, Darius MilhaudMilhaud, Darius
, 1892–1974, French composer. Milhaud studied at the Paris Conservatory. In Brazil (1917–19) as an aide to Paul Claudel, poet and French minister to Brazil, he became acquainted with Brazilian folk music.
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, Francis PoulencPoulenc, Francis
, 1899–1963, French composer and pianist. He was one of Les Six, a group of French composers who subscribed to the aesthetic ideals of Erik Satie.
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, Georges Auric (1899–1983), Louis Durey (1888–1979), and Germaine Tailleferre (1892–1983), the group's only woman.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Six, Les

 

a name applied in 1920 to a group of innovative French composers. The group included L. Durey, D. Milhaud, A. Honegger, G. Auric, F. Poulenc, and G. Tailleferre. The members, who possessed distinctive creative individualities, were united by a striving for a new simplicity and structural clarity in musical language and by a renunciation of the aesthetics of impressionism. After the 1920’s Les Six lost the significance of a distinctive group.

REFERENCE

DiumeniP, P. Sovremennye frantsuzskie kompozitory gruppy”Shesti. “ Leningrad, 1964.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Les Six; the French composers and their mentors, Jean Cocteau and Erik Satie.
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Catherine Miller singles out, quite rightly, three events around which the histories both of the individual composers and of Le Groupe des Six turned: "Parade et l'esprit nouveau," where, with responses to the collaboration between Erik Satie and Apollinaire, the public origins of Les Six can be located; "Le Coq et l'Arlequin," which acted as a public front for their activities, albeit unreliably and controversially; and "Les Maries de la Tour Eiffel," which, even though it took place in 1921, three years before the official demise of the group, nevertheless marked the beginning of the end and revealed much about internal tensions within Les Six, Durey refusing to take part in it because of Cocteau's (predictably) derogatory remarks about Maurice Ravel and la Legion d'honneur.