Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Wednesday, September 4

Milhaud's "Symphonies"

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1892, Darius Milhaud was born in Aix-en-Provence. He was one of the most amiable — and prolific — of 20th century French composers, producing over 400 works, including a dozen symphonies. Milhaud spent many years in America teaching at Mills College in California, whose climate reminded him of his beloved Provence.

Despite the rheumatoid arthritis that eventually confined him to a wheelchair, and the fact that he was forced to flee his native country when the Nazis arrived, Milhaud titled his 1973 autobiography: “My Happy Life.”

In his autobiography, Milhaud says that after composing his Twelfth Symphony, his publisher, half in jest, asked him to please stop and that surely twelve symphonies were enough. “I did not stop writing symphonies,” Milhaud slyly noted, “but a minor incident prompted me to give them other titles.” That incident occurred after a concert with the Boston Symphony when Milhaud conducted some of his own music. He heard the grandmother of one of his students remark, “All that is very nice, but it is NOT music for Boston!” Amused, Milhaud composed a work he titled: “Music for Boston,” and soon embarked on a whole NEW series of symphonic works, referred to generically as the “Music For” series, which include “Music for” Indiana, New Orleans, Lisbon, and Prague.

Music Played in Today's Program

Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) Symphony No. 9, Op. 380 Basel Radio Symphony; Alun Francis, cond. CPO 199 166

Additional Information

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