Ballet by Darius Milhaud
As soon as Milhaud returned from his visit to America (1922) he was contacted
by designer Fernand Leger
and the writer Blaise Cendrars
to make a new ballet
for Rolf de Mare
. Cendrars had already chosen a subject, the creation of the
world inspired by African folklore. As Milhaud says himself "
At last, in La Création du Monde, I had the opportunity I had been waiting for to use those elements of jazz to which I had devoted so much study.
I adopted the same orchestra as used in Harlem (two flutes, oboe, two clarinets, E-flat saxophone, bassoon, horn, two trumpets, trombone, much percussion, two violins, cello and bass), and I made wholesale use of the jazz style to convey a purely classical feeling"
of pre-Creation is seen on a darkened stage as the curtain rises.
Three aboriginal deities move among a tangled mass of bodies, muttering incantations
The mass responds to their charms.
First a tree
rises and lets fall one of its seeds, from which rises still another tree.
appear, every one of them springing — as in the process of evolution —
from a more primitive predecessor. Finally, as the three deities pronounce
new spells, Man
emerge. They perform a dance of desire
, excited by the
presence of primeval
sorcerers and witch doctors. At last the frenzy of the
subsides; the dancers disperse; and Man and Woman are left alone in
a symbolic embrace
which assures the fertility
of human life.
The suite for the ballet normally consists of 6 parts/sections:
- The Ouverture: begins with repeating phrases for piano, violins and cello,
establishing a dark atmosphere. An echoing theme for trumpet and clarinet is
placed on top of the theme the piano and strings play, introducing percussion.
- The second movement starts with a dramatic rhythm: The gods of creation gather
to make something out of the Chaos. Trumpet, sax and trombone soon argue over
the melody and eventually leading into frenziness, stopping suddenly.
- The third part continues with slow lines for flute and clarinet. The echoing tunes
from the ouverture (played by violins) return.
- Thrilling phrases for flute (in the ballet a tree rises) turning into a blues melody by the oboe.
A short tune by two violins, trumpet and piano.
- The music becomes tender, a clarinet with percussive accompaniment. Thrilling phrases
now played by bassoon and horn. The saxophone reintroduces the echoing melody of the ouverture.
Eventually the music becomes frenzier and percussive again
- The last section starts with the saxophone, returning to the serenity of music the opening.
Winds and brass follow up. The blues melody passes again, and the saxophone ends the score.