String Quartet No.4, Op.46
Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) was born in in the French city of Marsailles. He studied composition at the Paris Conservatory with Charles-Marie Widor and became a member of the so called "Les Six", a group of modernist French composer who were active during the first part of the 20th century. During the course of his long career, he frequently traveled abroad, sometimes for pleasure, sometimes from necessity. During the First World War, Milhaud served as secretary to the French ambassator to Brazil. During the Second World War, he moved to America during the Nazi occupation of France. The sights and sounds of the cultures of he saw always interested him. In his music one often hears the sounds of Brazilian dances and American, but also the “modern” trends of French music during the 1910s and 1920s.
Milhaud composed his Fourth String Quartet while working in Rio de Janeiro. It was completed in 1918. Although he would write many pieces inspired by Brazilian music when he returned to Paris, the Fourth Quartet has nothing Brazilian about it. The brief first movement, Vif, opens with a lively theme in F Major which has a bit of the sound of a folk dance. The dissonance one hears is caused by the fact that the second violin and the viola accompany the theme not in F, but in the key of A major. This was a polytonal technique to which Milhaud was particularly partial and he used it through the work. The second movement, Funebre, is a slow, lugubrious funeral march. The final movement, Trés animé, is similar in character to the first. Three prominent themes are presented, each with some resemblance to a melody from earlier movements.
This is a first class work which is typical of the first period when Les Six were active and on the cutting edge of what was then new. It makes a good impression in concert but is not beyond amateur players.
Parts & Score: $31.95