Milhaud Jazz Works

Author: 
Michael Oliver

Milhaud Jazz Works

  • (La) Création du monde
  • Suite
  • Scaramouche
  • (3) Rag Caprices
  • Caramel Mou

For his account of La creation du monde Ian Hobson chooses the original chamber version of the score. It has a crispness of detail often lost in performances of the later orchestral arrangement, and the fusion of classical chamber ensemble and jazz band that was presumably in Milhaud's mind when he wrote it is, of course, much more obvious. The juxtapositions of exotic percussion and suave oboe, the deliberate use of a saxophone instead of a viola in the quintet of strings are more piquant in the original than they ever can be in the orchestral version and Hobson makes the most of this, pointing out as he does so how much delicacy and even quiet the score contains. Nor does he fall into the trap of taking the jazzier sections at a showily fast tempo: they are fast, but not too gabblingly fast for clarity. It is an excellent performance, in short, and very cleanly and crisply recorded.
It may have seemed a good idea at the time to fill up the remaining space (or some of it: 47 minutes is not over-generous) with pieces whose mood is close to La creation, but in the event it means that the main work is followed by 11 short pieces, any one or two of which would make pleasant occasional listening but are both distinctly bitty and distinctly same-y when heard one after the other. And most of them are not all that close in mood to La creation anyway. There are patches of barber-shop harmony and bluish turns of phrase to the second of the Rag caprices, and Caramel Mou is rather like a shimmy thickly harmonized by Percy Grainger, but most of the other pieces represent Milhaud either in his Gallic vein perkily jovial, or showing us his picture-postcards of the carnival in Rio de Janeiro. They are all deftly and dapperly played, with a care for variety of texture as well as exuberant clatter in Scara-mouche (though I cannot believe that they dance the samba quite so sedately in Rio as in the finale here) and a nice feeling for the gentleness of Milhaud's melodic writing in slower music. But an endless sequence of desserts is bad menu-planning, and I cannot imagine anyone wanting to play this record from beginning to end very often. The smaller pieces sound very bright indeed in the close, dry recording.'

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