Darius Milhaud: La Creation Du Monde

I wanted to write a bit more about Milhaud today, not just to describe this extraordinary piece, but also to pay homage to the music label, Nonesuch.

When I started collecting classical music, I was, after all, in my teens and from a working class family. I had odd jobs—mowing lawns, life guarding, etc.—but when I went into record stores I was astounded at how much classical disks cost—at least double the price of popular albums. My friend, Kerry Wade, had a copy of La Creation Du Monde on the budget label, Nonesuch, which—if my memory serves me correctly—were about half the price of records on the big labels.

Nonesuch was an amazing company, and they seemed to have found an interesting niche. The artists on Nonesuch recordings were rarely the big names like Heifitz, Karajan, Rubenstein, or the New York Philharmonic, all of whom were busy, in the 60s and 70s turning out the same set of standard repertoire recordings as every other violinist, pianist, or orchestra. My Nonesuch copy of La Creation Du Monde, for example, was conducted by Milhaud himself, with the Orchestra du Theatre des Champs-Elyssees, which theatre is where he premiered Le Boeuf in 1919. Nonesuch, by not courting the big names, was able to carry works of less popular composers and artists, and therefore probably did more to bring classical music to a wider audience than any other company.

There is some irony here, especially with regards to La Creation Du Monde. Milhaud was deeply influenced by Jazz, which he first heard in London in 1920. He then visited New York and was taken to a number of Jazz clubs in Harlem where the music electrified him. Supposedly he sat in the front row taking notes. When he returned to Paris he wrote La Creation Du Monde and announced that European culture was now being influenced by American culture for the first time. That was about the time that Hemingway and the “Lost Generation” flocked to Europe, which also resulted in flourishing of the arts on both sides of the Atlantic. So La Creation Du Monde is a piece of three continents—Africa, North America and Europe. Milhaud was World Music before World Music was cool.


About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

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