A study of the last three string quartets of Darius Milhaud: The evolution of the late quartet style



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Darius Milhaud, has composed, eighteen string quartets; therefore some explanation would seem in order for confining a paper of this nature to a study of the final three. As will be shown in subsequent chapters, Quartets Numbers 16. 17. and 18 are really best considered separately from the preceding quartets because they represent an intentional finis to the composer's work in the medium, and because they bear very personal dedications which set them apart. There is no lack of commentary on the early quartets, the popular Twelfth, or the more recent Octet which is made up of Quartets Numbers 14 and 15. Therefore, this study will attempt to break somewhat fresher ground by examining the late intimate style of quartet writing as found in the last three. Two preliminary chapters are offered which do not deal directly with an examination of the music, Background of an Era and Background of a French Composer. A great deal has been written, in the opinion of this writer, that has served only to confuse the intent of Post-Impressionistic Music and the men who were creating it. In the past a misunderstanding of the purpose of a work such as Le Bouef sur le Toit was quite enough to cancel out a veritable mountain of serious music and brand all of the music of "Les Six" as a kind of mere prankishness. A certain amount of the confusion can be traced, to the undoubtedly well-meaning, but sensational, journalism of Jean Cocteau. As reported by Maurice Grosser, the writings of Apollinaire and Cocteau did much to advance the cause of the Cubist painters, and "the same sort of publicity was used to promote music." The two opening chapters are included in accord with the belief that an understanding of the time and influences surrounding a composer is always mandatory for an understanding of his music.