Composers Datebook®

Milhaud's "Scaramouche" Suite

Composer's Datebook - July 1, 2023


On today’s date in 1937, a two-piano suite by the French composer Darius Milhaud had its premiere. It was entitled “Scaramouche,” after a stock character in the Italian commedia dell arte, and the music’s upbeat, carefree mood made it an instant hit. For his part, Milhaud was in an apprehensive mood. When he and his wife Madeleine had visited the 1937 Paris International Exposition, they saw premonitions of war reflected in many of its exhibits.

“Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ adorned the walls of the Spanish pavilion,” recalled Milhaud, “but the Spanish Republic had been murdered. Placed face to face, the German and the Soviet pavilions seemed to challenge each other to mortal combat. One evening, as we watched the sun set behind the flags of all nations, Madeleine clutched my arm in anguish and whispered, ‘This is the end of Europe!’”

In 1940, Milhaud was forced to leave France when the Germans occupied Paris. As a Jew, his music was promptly banned. But in 1943, two French pianists performed “Scaramouche” in concert, tricking the German censors by listing its composer’s name as “Hamid-al-Usurid”—a fictitious Arabic composer whose name just happens to be an anagram of “Darius Milhaud.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Darius Milhaud (1892 - 1974) Scaramouche Anthony and Joseph Paratore, pianos Four Winds 3014

On This Day


  • 1926 - Birth of German composer Hans Werner Henze, in Gütersloh, Westphalia


  • 1784 - German composer Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, age 73, in Berlin; He was the eldest son of J.S. Bach;

  • 1925 - French composer Erik Satie, age 59, in Paris


  • 1716 - Handel: Concerto Grosso in F, Op. 3, no. 4a, in London (Gregorian date: July 12);

  • 1927 - Bela Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 1, in Frankfurt, Wilhelm Fürtwängler conducting, with the composer as soloist

  • 1933 - R. Strauss: opera "Arabella," in Dresden at the Staatsoper, Clemens Krauss conducting, with vocal soloists Viorica Ursuleac (Arabella), Alfred Jerger (Mandryka), Margit Bokor (Zdenka), and Martin Kremer (Matteo);

  • 1937 - Milhaud: "Scaramouche" Suite for Two Pianos, in Paris

  • 1948 - Rawthorne: Violin Concerto, at Cheltenham Festival in England

  • 1984 - Sallinen: opera, "The King Goes Forth to France," in Helsinki

  • 2000 - Diamond: Symphony No. 10, by the Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwarz conducting

  • 2001 - Lazarof: "Legends form the Bible," for chorus, horns and vibes, in Berlin, by the Ars-Nova Ensemble, conducted by Peter Schwarz


  • 1867 - American premiere of Johann Strauss, Jr.'s "Blue Danube" Waltz at a summer concert of the Theodore Thomas Orchestra in New York (less than five months after the work's premiere in Vienna)

  • 1897 - The Music Division of the Library of Congress is founded in Washington, D.C.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®