My Happy Life

Darius Milhaud, Author, Donald Evans, Translator, Christopher Palmer, Translator Marion Boyars Publishers $30 (0p) ISBN 978-0-7145-2957-8
The French composer named his memoir to contradict a student's assumption that art required suffering-a Germanic sentiment in the eyes of the very Mediterranean Milhaud (1892-1974). In fact, he could have laid claim to suffering: Much of his early work was dismissed by critics, he fell victim to crippling rheumatism in his 30s, and in 1940, he was forced to flee France because he was Jewish. Instead he chose to focus on his rich friendships and collaborations with, among others, Eric Satie, Fernand Leger, Jean Cocteau, Juan Gris and, rather ironically, Paul Claudel and Francis Jammes, both pious Catholics. Still, he was best known as a member of ``The Six,'' an artificial creation of one critic: ``Quite arbitrarily he had chosen six names: Auric, Durey, Honegger, Poulenc, Tailleferre and my own, merely because we knew one another,'' Milhaud recalled, adding, ``I fundamentally disapproved of joint declarations of aesthetic doctrines, and felt them to be unreasonable limitations on the artist's imagination.'' But ``The Six'' stuck, as did Milhaud's reputation as a musical jokester after Le Boeuf sur le Toit. This straightforward memoir portrays a modest man (sometimes too modest, given the moment of the era) and one who brought to his music an eager and very open mind-he early on adopted jazz for La Creation du Monde and Brazilian songs in Saudades do Brazil. References springing from Milhaud's full life could have been better served by notes (e.g. identifying playwright and Rosicrucian, Josephin Peladan would have clarified a passing reference to ``Sar Peladan''). Photos not seen by PW. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1994
Release date: 11/01/1994
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