Record of the day: Darius Milhaud, "Music for Wind Instruments"

Record of the day: Darius Milhaud, “Music for Wind Instruments”

Darius Milhaud
Music for Wind Instruments (CD Chandos CHAN 6536)

A prolific composer to the point of excess, Darius Milhaud left us over one hundred scores of all genres, including many symphonies, operas, ballets, concerts and countless chamber compositions. Within this immense multifaceted work, by force of
things unequal in quality level, the production of works intended for wind instruments stands out.

In the purest tradition of the French compositional school, the Provençal Milhaud often turned his attention to these
instruments with a pure timbre and no frills whose ability to be expressive and at the same time ironic adapted like a glove to the aesthetics of the Groupe des Six of which Milhaud was one of the standard-bearers together with Poulenc and Honegger.
Dedicated to resolutely erasing every trace of Debussy’s impressionism, these musicians created an authentic musical earthquake at the beginning of the century, scandalizing the pompiers of the Academies with their harking back to the world of the Music Hall and mocking in their scores (inspired by the models of Stravinsky and Erik Satie) also the world of Wagnerian followers and nineteenth-century symphonists; sharp music, rhythmically lively and colourful, often intended for dance: that of the Six was a short but healthy interlude that opened the windows clogged by the mists created by too many mediocre imitators of Debussy at the beginning of the twentieth century.

This excellent disc by the Athena Ensemble offers us an overview of little-known works by the French composer; all pages of high compositional quality, fresh and accessible to anyone, which portray an exact photograph of his varied musical personality. The love that Milhaud had for the composers of the past is highlighted in the delightful “Suite d’après Corrette”, which wittily re-elaborates themes of his former colleague, but even the more famous “La Cheminée du Roi René” has eighteenth-century features and reminiscences of an archaic flavour.

The divertissement of 1958 has a formal structure built like a mosaic that intersects different melodic ideas and greater harmonic harshness, without however creating an atmosphere of substantial clarity and serenity; even less demanding works such as the “Pastorale” and the “Two Sketches” reflect the craftsmanship with which Milhaud was able to draw aphoristic musical figures of clear elegance.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.