Milhaud

Born: 1892

Died: 1974

Darius Milhaud

In 1920 Milhaud was one of the six young French composers labelled Les Six (Poulenc, Honegger, Auric, Tailleferre and Durey were the others) but, though he flirted briefly with their high-­spirited fun, he was always far too independent to belong to any stylistic group.

Milhaud was the son of a wealthy almond merchant from a old Jewish Provençal family. He was picking out tunes on the piano from the age of three and in 1909 entered the Paris Conservatoire, where d’Indy, Widor and Dukas were among his teachers. Early on he became associated with Satie and Cocteau. Another in the circle was his friend the poet Paul Claudel, who was made French Ambassador to Brazil in 1917 and who engaged Milhaud as his secretary there.

In 1920 he was one of the six young French composers labelled Les Six (Poulenc, Honegger, Auric, Tailleferre and Durey were the others) but, though he flirted briefly with their high-­spirited fun, he was always far too independent to belong to any stylistic group. The onset of crippling rheumatoid arthritis in the late 1920s did nothing to diminish his prolific output in all forms and styles, or his concert appearances as pianist or conductor in his own work. The Second World War forced him to America, where he became professor of composition at Mills College, California, a position he retained until 1971, when he retired with his wife to Switzerland.

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