Darius Milhaud (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Perhaps the most famous composer of the mythical “Les Six,” Milhaud was undoubtedly the most prolific, his published works running to nearly 450. He did highly original work in such areas as polytonality and percussion music. His best work is characterized by a Gallic lyricism.
Born on September 4, 1892, in Aix-en-Provence, France, Darius Milhaud belonged to a well-to-do Jewish family for centuries settled in Aix and in close touch with the region’s cultural life. His father was an amateur pianist, his mother an amateur singer. Piano lessons from his father were followed at age seven by violin lessons from a former Paris Conservatoire prizewinner, Léo Bruquier. In 1902, Milhaud was enrolled at the local lycée, where he distinguished himself academically. By the time he was twelve, he was playing second violin in a string quartet with his teacher, taking harmony lessons, and writing a violin sonata. Léo Latil and Armand Lunel, both promising young writers, were his closest friends; later, Milhaud was strongly influenced by friendship with such writers as Francis Jammes, Paul Claudel, and Jean Cocteau. The many friends he made among writers and painters would influence him as much, if not more, than his contemporaries in music.
After passing his baccalaureate examinations at the age of sixteen, Milhaud entered the Paris Conservatoire primarily as a violin student,...
(The entire section is 2585 words.)
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