Darius Milhaud

[mee-yoh, mee-oh]
Darius Milhaud (September 4, 1892 – June 22, 1974) was a French composer and teacher. He was a member of Les Six - also known as the Groupe des Six - and one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century. His compositions are particularly noted as being influenced by jazz and for their use of polytonality (music in more than one key at once).


Born to a Jewish family in Aix-en-Provence, Milhaud studied in Paris at the Paris Conservatory where he met his fellow group members Arthur Honegger and Germaine Tailleferre. He studied composition under Charles Widor and harmony and counterpoint with André Gédalge. In addition he studied privately with Vincent d'Indy. As a young man he worked for a while in the diplomatic entourage of Paul Claudel, the eminent poet and dramatist, who was serving as ambassador to Brazil.

On a trip to the United States in 1922, Darius Milhaud heard "authentic" jazz for the first time, on the streets of Harlem, which left a great impact on his musical outlook. Using some jazz movements, the following year, he finished composing "La création du monde" ("The Creation of the World"), which was cast as a ballet in six continuous dance scenes.

He left France in 1939 and emigrated to America in 1940 (his Jewish background made it impossible for him to return to his native country until after the Liberation); he secured a teaching post at Mills College in Oakland, California. Legendary jazz pianist Dave Brubeck arguably became Milhaud's most famous student when Brubeck furthered his music studies at Mills College in the late 1940s (he named his eldest son Darius).

Milhaud (like his contemporaries Paul Hindemith, Gian Francesco Malipiero, Bohuslav Martinů and Heitor Villa-Lobos) was an extremely rapid creator, for whom the art of writing music seemed almost as natural as breathing. His most popular works include Le Boeuf sur le Toit (ballet), La création du monde (a ballet for small orchestra with solo saxophone, influenced by jazz), Scaramouche (for Saxophone and Orchestra, also for two pianos), and Saudades do Brasil (dance suite). His autobiography is titled Notes Sans Musique (Notes Without Music), later revised as Ma Vie Heureuse (My Happy Life).

From 1947 to 1971 he taught alternate years at Mills and the Paris Conservatoire, until poor health, which caused him to use a wheelchair during his later years (beginning sometime before 1947), compelled him to retire. He died in Geneva, aged 81.


Note that the following list represents only a tiny proportion of Milhaud's output; his opus list ended at 443.




  • Suite for Harmonica and Orchestra


  • Symphonies
    • Little Symphony No. 1, Op. 43 'le printemps'
    • Little Symphony No. 2, Op. 49 'Pastorale'
    • Little Symphony No. 3 'Sérénade', Op. 71
    • Little Symphony No. 4, Op. 74 'Dixtour'
    • Little Symphony No. 5, Op. 75 'Dixtour d'instruments à vent'
    • Little Symphony No. 6, Op. 79
    • Symphony No. 1 Op.210
    • Symphony No. 2 Op.247
    • Symphony No. 3 'Te Deum' Op.271
    • Symphony No. 4 'composée á l'occasion de Cenetaire de la Revolution de 1848' Op. 281
    • Symphony No. 5 Op.322
    • Symphony No. 6 Op.343
    • Symphony No. 7 Op.344
    • Symphony No. 8 'Rhodanienne' Op. 362
    • Symphony No. 9 Op.380
    • Symphony No. 10 Op.382
    • Symphony No. 11 'Romantique' Op. 384
    • Symphony No. 12 'Rurale' Op.390
  • "Protee" Suite symphonique Nr.2, Op.57 (1919)
  • Serenade en trois parties, Op.62 (1920/1921)
  • Saudades do Brasil, Op. 67 (1920/21), initially for piano, arr. for orchestra)
  • Suite provençale, Op. 152b, for orchestra (1937)

Solo Guitar

  • Segoviana, Op. 366 (1957)

Solo Violin

  • Le Printemps, for solo violin and small orchestra

Solo Viola

  • Quatre Visages, Op. 238, for viola and piano (1944)
  • Sonata No.1, Op. 240, for viola and piano (1944)
  • Sonata No.2, Op. 244, for viola and piano (1944)
  • Élégie pour Pierre, Op. 416, for viola, timpani and 2 percussionists (1965)


  • Piano
    • Cinq Études pour piano et orchestre, Op. 63 (1920)
    • 5 Concertos for piano and orchestra (1933-1955)
    • Le Carnaval d'Aix, Op. 83b, fantasy for piano and orchestra (1926)
  • Violin
    • 3 Concertos for violin and orchestra
  • Viola
    • Concerto No. 1, Op. 108, for viola and orchestra (1929)
    • Concerto No. 2, Op. 340, for viola and orchestra (1954–1955)
    • Concertino d'été, Op. 311, for viola and chamber orchestra (1951)
  • Cello
    • Concerto No. 1, Op. 136, for cello and orchestra (1934)
    • Concerto No. 2, Op. 255, for cello and orchestra (1945)
  • Scaramouche, for alto saxophone and orchestra (1937), for clarinet and orchestra (1939)
    • I. Vif
    • II. Modéré
    • III. Brazileira
  • Concerto pour batterie et petit orchestre, Op. 109, concerto for percussion and small orchestra
  • Concerto pour Marimba, Vibraphone et orchestre"
  • Concertino d'hiver, Op. 327, for trombone and string orchestra (1953)
  • Duo Concertant pour Clarinette et Piano (1956)
  • Concerto pour Clarinette et orchestre Op.230


  • Suite française, Op. 248 (1944)
    • 1. Normandie
    • 2. Bretagne
    • 3. Île de France
    • 4. Alsace-Lorraine
    • 5. Provence
  • West Point Suite, Op. 313 (1954)
  • Deux Marches, Op. 260 (1946)
  • Introduction et Marche funèbre
  • La Cheminée du Roi René (Woodwind Quintet)


  • Printemps (1915-1920)
  • Le bœuf sur le toit, for two pianos (1919)
  • "Saudades do Brasil" (1920)
  • Scaramouche, for two pianos (1941), arrangement of the original theatre music for saxophone and orchestra)
  • La muse menagere
  • 2 Sonates
  • Sonatine
  • "Les Songes" (for piano duo)


  • String quartets (The 14th and 15th string quartets can be performed separately as well as simultaneously as a string octet. For a curious 19th-century example of a composer writing works for simultaneous performance, see Pietro Raimondi.)
    • String Quartet No. 1 Op.5
    • String Quartet No. 2 Op.16
    • String Quartet No. 3 with solo vioice Op.32
    • String Quartet No. 4 Op.46
    • String Quartet No. 5 Op.64
    • String Quartet No. 6 Op.77
    • String Quartet No. 7 Op.87
    • String Quartet No. 8 Op. 121
    • String Quartet No. 9 Op.140
    • String Quartet No. 10 "Birthday Quartet" Op. 218
    • String Quartet No. 11 Op.232
    • String Quartet No. 12 Op.252
    • String Quartet No. 13 Op. Op.268
    • String Quartet No. 14 Op. 291/1
    • String Quartet No. 15 Op. 291/2
    • String Quartet No. 16 Op.303
    • String Quartet No. 17 Op.307
    • String Quartet No. 18 Op.308
    • 3 études sur des thèmes du Comtat Venaissin Op.442(1973)
    • Homage a Igor Stravinsky Op.435
    • Sonata for Piano and 2 Violins
    • Suite for clarinet, violin and piano, Op.157b (1936)

Solo Vocal

  • Machines agricoles, Op. 56, for one singer and 7 instruments, with texts taken out of a catalogue for agricultural machines (1919)
  • Cataloque des fleurs, Op.60, for one voice and 7 instruments (1920)


  • Chateau du feu, Op.337, Cantate, In memory of his Jewish natives who are killed during the war by the Nazis.
  • Psaume 121, for men's choir, written for the Harvard Glee Club after their 1921 tour of Europe.

Notable students



Archival collections

External links

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