#composer: Darius Milhaud ‚Creation du monde‘

#composer: Darius Milhaud 'Creation du monde'

new York

In 1922, the French-Jewish composer, violinist and conductor Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) travelled to New York for a few weeks. Between solo performances, premieres of his own works and guest conducting, he always took time to attend jazz concerts. While he initially went to more established Broadway theatres, he soon expanded his explorations to bars and dance clubs in Harlem, where he experienced a wide variety of African-American musicians and bands. What he heard there impressed him greatly: "The North Americans have indeed found in the jazz band a form of artistic expression that is absolutely their own, and their most important jazz bands achieve such perfection in their performances that they are worthy of sharing the fame of the well-known symphonic associations [...]," he later wrote about it.


Back in France, Milhaud immediately began working on ballet music for the Ballets Suédois . Its director, Rolf de Maré, had commissioned a work based on an African creation myth - the Parisian art scene of the 1920s was characterized by primitivism and exoticism and fascinated by African culture. La Création du monde , The Creation of the World , premiered in October 1923 - none other than Fernand Léger was responsible for the visual implementation of the ballet. With the music, Darius Milhaud managed to build a bridge: he incorporated jazz elements into his classical work and created something new, unheard of in the concert hall. He wanted to convey the "purely archaic feeling" of the creation story through the jazz chords, rhythms and techniques in his ballet music.


Milhaud's successful symbiosis of European symphonic tradition and American ragtime also delighted Leonard Bernstein : "A true masterpiece has emerged from this, a full-length, fully developed jazz piece that has so much character and originality that it sounds just as fresh today as it did in 1923. [...] Of all the musically experimental flirtations with jazz that existed in Europe at that time, only La Création du monde is perfect - not as a flirtation, but as a real love affair."

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