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Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
CD 1
Six Little Symphonies: No. 1 'Le printemps', Op. 43 (1917) [3:25]: Allant, Chantant, Et vif!; No. 2 'Pastorale', Op. 49 (1918) [4:31]: Joyeux, Calme, Joyeux; No. 3 'Sérénade', Op. 71 (1921) [3:32]: Vivement, Calme, Rondement; No. 4 for ten string instruments, Op. 74 (1921) [5:57]: Ouverture (Animé), Choral (Assez lent), Etude; No. 5 for ten wind instruments, Op. 75 (1922) [6:00]: Rude, Lent, Violent; No. 6 for soprano, alto, tenor, bass, oboe, cello, Op. 79 (1923) [6:52]: Calme et doux, Souple et vif, Lent très expressif.
L'homme et son désir, Op. 48 for soprano, alto, tenor, bass, oboe and cello (1918) [17:08]
Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 228 (1941) [12:18]: Animé, Romance, Bien modérément animé
Suite cisalpine sur des airs populaires piemontais, Op. 332 for cello and orchestra (1954) [14:42]
CD 2
Le boeuf sur le toit, Op. 58 (1919) [15:23]
Concerto for percussion and small orchestra, Op. 109 (1930) [7:35]
Concerto No. 1 for viola and orchestra, Op. 108 (1929) [11:56]: Animé, Lent, Souple et animé
La muse ménagère, Op. 245 (1944) [21:11]: La mienne, La reveil, Le soins du ménage, La poésie, La cuisine, Les fleurs dans la maison, La lessive, Musique ensemble, Le fils peintre, Le chat, Cartomancie, Les soins au malade, La douceur des soirées, Lectures nocturnes, Reconnaisance à la muse.
Le carnaval d'Aix, for piano and orchestra Op. 83b (1926) [18:20]: Le corso, Tartaglia, Isabelle, Rosetta, Le bon et le mauvais tuteur, Coviello, La Capitaine Cartuccia, Polichinelle, Polka, Cinzio, Souvenir de Rio (Tango), Final.
Grant Johanessen (piano) (Muse; Piano Concerto 2); Thomas Blees (cello (Suite); Fauré Daniel (percussion); Ulrich Koch (viola); Carl Seeman (piano) (Aix); Josette Doemer (sop); Josette Doemer (sop), Marie-Jeanne Klein (alto), Venent Arend (ten), Raymond Koster (bass), Norbert Matern (oboe), Georges Mallach (cello) (No. 6); Josette Doemer (sop), Marie-Jeanne Klein (alto), Venent Arend (ten), Raymond Koster (bass) (L'homme et son désir)
Luxembourg Radio Symphony Orchestra/Darius Milhaud (symphonies, L'homme et son désir, Aix, concertos for Percussion, Viola); Luxembourg Radio Symphony Orchestra/Bernard Kontarsky (Piano Concerto 2; Suite Cisalpine); Luxembourg Radio Symphony Orchestra/Louis de Froment (Le boeuf sur le toit)
rec. 1967-68 except Piano Concerto 2, Suite Cisalpine and Muse recorded in 1972. ADD. stereo.
VOXBOX CDX 5109 [75:25 + 74:59]

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This has to be one of classical music’s bargains of all time and although it is eleven years since it was a new ‘kid on the block’ it merits a ‘bargain of the month’ accolade. I would not want you to forget about it amid the drifts of releases. For less than a fiver (Caiman via Amazon) here are two CDs in a sensible single-width case providing two and half hours of Milhaud’s most engaging music: gritty, jazzy, pastoral, urbane, winsome and witty.

I know these pieces from the original three LPs and their vibrancy on CD as musical experiences has the same bite and immediacy as when first heard on those thick vinyl platters. For years those Vox-Turnabout-Candide LPs were to be had as cheapish US imports from Farringdon Records in London. Now they’re long gone or in my case relegated to some IKEA units upstairs.

Across these fourteen pieces Milhaud is never prolix. These are works where the time-span coincides with the natural reach of the melodies, motifs and ideas.

The Turnabout-Candide recording team for these sessions with the composer, de Froment and Kontarsky did not shy from a really close-up microphone array. Stereo techniques were at least a decade old at the time when the composer sessions were set down and the crew make ear-tickling use of channel separation without making it an intrusive fetish.

There is one criticism although it is only a slight hardship: Each work is given a single track when most of the works are in multiple movements, in the case of La Muse, 15; Le Carnaval d’Aix in 12.

The notes are superb and were written by the composer, by Richard Freed and by R.D. Darrell. They tell you all the essentials with good factual input and non-technical descriptions. Pity that they cannot settle on the correct spelling of Boeuf and Janeiro. The booklet is printed at a decent point size.

Attracted? You should be. This is a stunning bargain. Unless you have a prejudice against older analogue recordings or prefer your twentieth century listening encased in outright dissonance go directly to Amazon and place your order. There seem to be plenty of copies available both directly from Amazon and also via Amazon Marketplace suppliers. Technically, I suspect that rather like many Olympia discs, the Voxboxs have been deleted. In practise they can still be had. Just as well.

Rob Barnett

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