Saturday, February 28, 2009 8:00 pm Concert Hall
A celebration of the Concert Hall naming follows.
Darius Milhaud's Brazilian Connection
Dazzling orchestral works conducted by Nicole Paiement
At this gala event, Mills faculty, alumnae, students, and guest artists will perform exhilarating orchestral music by Darius Milhaud, conducted by Nicole Paiement and featuring piano soloists Robert Schwartz and Julie Steinberg, and percussion virtuoso William Winant.
Darius Milhaud's Brazilian connection dates back to February 1917, when he arrived in Rio de Janeiro to work in the diplomatic entourage of his friend, the poet Paul Claudel, who was serving as the French ambassador to Brazil. Inspired by the country's tropical landscape and rich culture, Milhaud was particularly intrigued by the rhythm of Brazilian popular music, and the elusive, mournful, and liquid way Brazilian performers played this music, which gave him deeper insight into the Brazilian soul.
Milhaud's sojourn in Brazil lasted until November 1918. When Milhaud returned to Paris, memories of World War I were beginning to fade. A new optimism took root, based on the hope that a global catastrophe of this proportion would never happen again. It was in this atmosphere that Milhaud, inspired by the Brazilian music in which he had been immersed, composed the score for a ballet, the surrealistic fantasy Le boeuf sur le toit (The Ox on the Roof).
Milhaud once remarked that while he gazed into the heavens at night he "would feel rays and tremors converging on [him] from all points in the sky and from below the ground, simultaneous musics rushing towards [him] from all directions." He expressed this ideal of simultaneity in his music with a technique called polytonality, the superimposition of chords and melodies in different keys, which he employed in Le boeuf sur le toit and Cinq études pour piano et orchestre. The latter work's first performance resulted in a near riot, and a policeman was summoned to sit by the composer in the event that things got out of hand.
Along with these two works above, the program features Milhaud's Cantate pour l'inauguration du musée de l'homme, a stunning composition for soloists, chorus, and chamber ensemble written just before the outbreak of the second World War; Carnival d'aix, a humorous fantasy for piano and orchestra, which, like Le boeuf sur le toit, invokes the spirit of popular music; and the Concerto pour percussion, an exciting bravura work demanding considerable athleticism from the soloist.
View Program Notes