Paris by Darius Milhaud

Paris by Darius Milhaud with text by Joe Goldiamond — a piano work to be performed on 4 pianos in Maui on 14th July 2012.

The Paris of French composer Darius Milhaud in 1948 is captured in his 4 piano music for 4 pianists. I asked my friend Joe Goldiamond, who has lived in Paris, to write about each of the areas which title the movements of this work. He has always spoken fondly of Paris, a romantic city I was fortunate enough to visit as a 21-year-old backpacker through Europe, on holiday as a graduate student, day trip for a job interview, blind date, conferences & meetings, winter rendezvous with friend from Houston, and the last occasion in Summer 2009. I can’t wait to share his descriptions with the audience on Maui on Saturday 14th July 2012. [The bracketed comments are mine, after our 8th July rehearsal.]


Montmartre sits on a hillside in the northernmost part of the city and has a 2,000 year-old history as an independent village known for its windmills and vineyards.  Annexed by Paris in the late 19th century, it quickly became home for artists, poets and revolutionaries who were attracted by its tolerant atmosphere, its buoyant nightlife, and by the beauty of its winding, narrow cobblestone streets, often with steep inclines, that may lead suddenly to small squares and fountains and gardens. [You can hear the scales, which I think depict the steps and paths.]

L’ Isle St. Louis      

The Isle St. Louis is a natural island in the River Seine right in the heart of Paris.  Yet, it feels far away and on Sunday mornings, when the island is shrouded in mist that rolls in from the river and the only sound you hear is that of a church bell, you might easily imagine yourself in rural France, 400 years ago.  It was the home of the Polish composer and pianist, Frederic Chopin.  The quays, which embrace the entire island, are legendary as lovers’ promenades. [You can hear the tenuto notes representing the bells of the Notre Dame.]


Montparnasse became the heart of Paris’s artistic and intellectual life after the first decade of the 20th century.  Located deep on the Left Bank, the area is a broad plain gathered around the boulevard Montparnasse, which today, as much as yesterday, blends bookstores and nightlife, cafés and crepe restaurants.  The stroller will still find legendary cafés, such as Le Dome and La Rotonde, where painters, sculptors, writers and philosophers from across the globe gathered to mold thoughts and debate ideas. [This piece is full of conversations, ideas, and thoughts criss-crossing each other. The biggest movement by far.]

Les Bateaux-Mouches

The Bateaux-Mouches are long, slender boats that have carried visitors on tours through the heart of Paris since the end of the 19th century.  The visitor experiences a leisurely adventure and gentle breeze as his boat glides past Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre Museum and the Tuileries Gardens and under historic bridges.  He may also sense what the waters of the Seine have always meant to Paris, as its main artery, and some would say, its soul. [In 12/8 time, you feel the sway of the boat on the water, nice and relaxed!]


The Longchamp Racecourse is located along the banks of the Seine in a wooded area in western Paris.  From the time of Napoleon III and across La Belle Epoque into the early 20th century, it was the kind of place that you went to in a top hat, if you were a man, and carrying a parasol, if you were not.  Even the thoroughbred horses had an understated elegance, along with power, in the masterly paintings of Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas. [This is a fugue, which means chase. You can literally hear the parts can’t wait to imitate each other, more like chasing each other!]

La Tour Eiffel

The Eiffel Tower is the tallest structure in France, the most visited monument in the world, and the universal symbol of Paris.  If the islands in the River Seine are the city’s heart, and the river its soul, then the Eiffel Tower is the city’s intelligence.  Constructed of iron lattice, like Parisian balconies, it was considered an impossible feat until it was done.  It was completed in 1889, in time for the World’s Fair, which was held to celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution, an event we commemorate this evening. [As the last movement, this is grand and triumphant, rising high like the tower itself! Lots of octaves!]

Author: BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.

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