Darius Milhaud, 1922: La Creation du Monde

Viewers interested in the music of this prolific composer, should also see the positing on the performance of  “Suite”, for Violin, Clarinet and Piano,(1936).

Funny thing about  La Creation du Monde. It was written in 1922, a ballet for 17 instruments, including a long lovely saxophone solo and a long difficult clarinet solo that some   know.
Just think, 1922, which is two years prior to Rhapsody in Blue, by Gershwin, a piece we all know, written orginally for about the same instrumentation, Paul Whitemans band, then for symphony orchestra. The Milhaud preceeds the Gershwin by a couple of years. Both are mixtures of Jazz and classical elements. Both are unique for being “firsts”
The Milhaud is a far  uglier and raucous work, and much more like the jazz that Milhaud heard in Harlem, than the ordered and melodic Rhapsody in Blue.
Of course, we all know the Gershwin from the opening clarinet solo, one that Gershwin didn’t write, nor did Ferdi Grofe who orchestrated it. The glissando was Ross Gormans idea, (the clarinetist in Whitemans band), of a rehearsal joke, and his playng of it as a glissando became the norm in all subsequent performances.
I’ve always compared these two works because they were written so close together and were unique. Actually the Milhaud is more akin to actual jazz and the wildness thats occurs in the climax of the piece is very much like the kind of jazz being played at the time.
It is written for 2 violins, cello, doublebass, 2 flutes, oboe, 2 clarinets, bassoon, alto saxophone, horn, 2 trumpets, trombone, piano and percussion.
Most all clarinetists have played the Gershwin, probably less have played the Milhaud.
Milhauds piece was written as a ballet, certainly a kind of fertility theme.
Gershwins work was written for a concert of experimental music, mixing jazz and classical music, but played by Whitemans Band, with Gershwin as soloist. It then was arranged for full symphony and has become one of the most frequently peformed works in the symphonic repertoire.
I receive many questions about the glissando, how to play one, and specifically, it. It is not just a bent note, or a  couple, but a long run upto the C.
I have a friend who called it the longest agogic accent ever written.
(An agogic accent is an accent by delay)
The saxophone and clarinet solos cannot be played by a doubler in the Milhaud, though I suppose it could be done with some rearrangement of the work, but it works just fine as it is written.
I happen to be thinking of a very special double bassist last night, Buell Neidlinger. Anyone know him? Cello and doublebass! A wonderful player and musician.While famous for Jazz, he has also played in the Boston Symphony. (We played together in Buffalo)I’d love to hear him play the beginning of the jazz fugue which begins the second section of the work, which is written for doublebass solo, followed by the other instruments.
In any event, this is an article calling attention to the two works, their closeness in  time of composition, the fact that they had no influence on one another and have the striking similarity of both being Classical works about Jazz. Perhaps the first two.
Keep practicing that gliss.
stay well.


One Response to Darius Milhaud, 1922: La Creation du Monde

  1. trialand3rror says:

    Mr Friedland, Thank you so much for introducing me to this wonderful piece of music (Milhaud’s creation) – so much more interesting (and remarkable) than GG’s RIB…

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