Rockport Chamber Music Festival Opening Night is this Friday!
The concert will feature an eclectic array of spectacular jazz-inspired music, including the vibrant Creation du Monde by French composer Darius Milhaud. Below is an excerpt from the program notes for this exciting piece:
Creation du Monde
Darius Milhaud (b. Marseilles, September 4, 1892; d. Geneva, June 22, 1974)
Composed in 1923; 18 minutes
French composer Darius Milhaud first came across jazz when he heard the Billy Arnold Jazz Band, recently arrived from New York in 1920, in a Hammersmith dance hall in London. The next year in New York, he heard the Leo Reisman Band and the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and was struck by their timbres and subtlety. In Harlem, he particularly loved the rhythmic energy of the strident New Orleans-type jazz. Soon, back in Paris, he received a commission to write music for Rolf de Maré’s Swedish ballet. His collaborators were the poet Blaise Cendrars (who had just put together a book of African folk tales), set designer Fernand Léger and choreographer Jean Borlin. Their subject was a ballet portraying the creation of the world seen through African creation beliefs. “At last in La création du monde, I had the opportunity I had been waiting for,” Milhaud wrote in his autobiography. “I could now use all those elements of jazz I had been studying so hard. I adopted the same orchestra as used in Harlem—17 solo instruments—and I made wholesale use of the jazz style to convey a purely classical feeling.”
The action portrays a dark mass of entwined dancers chanting magical incantations on a dark stage. Trees and animals gradually evolve; then an arm, a leg and the torso of a complete human being. A man and woman perform a dance of fertility and are left alone onstage to welcome the first springtime. The ballet premièred in Paris at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, October 25, 1923. There was the desired scandale. People pronounced the ballet frivolous and its music better suited to the dance hall than the theater. But, as Milhaud wryly noted: “Ten years later, the selfsame critics were discussing the philosophy of jazz and learnedly demonstrating that La création was the best of my works.” Milhaud’s groundbreaking work is performed in its composer’s arrangement for piano quintet.
Suite: La Création du Monde, OP. 81B will be played at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival Opening Night: The Roaring ‘20s on Friday, June 14, 2019 at 8 p.m.