Darius Milhaud

Darius Milhaud began studying composition at the Paris Conservatoire at age 17 under the tutelage of Charles Marie Widor, Vincent d'Indy and André Gedalget. While serving as an attaché at the French delegation in Rio de Janeiro during the First World War, Milhaud began a long and fruitful association with poet Paul Claudel, several of whose plays Milhaud would go on to provide with incidental music (Proteé, 1919; L'annonce fait í  Marie, 1934) and who, in turn, would supply libretti for many of Milhaud's compositions (e.g. the opera Christophe Colomb, 1928).

After returning to Paris in 1919 Milhaud was adopted into the circle of "Les Six," a group of progressive French composers brought together under the guidance of Jean Cocteau. During the 1920s Milhaud adopted an assortment of new musical influences, most notably jazz, which the composer first encountered during a trip to the U.S. in 1922, and which features prominently in much of his subsequent music.

Milhaud composed, performed, and taught ceaselessly during the 1920s and 1930s, only abandoning his homeland in late 1939 after all hope of resisting the German advance vanished. Settling in the United States, Milhaud accepted a teaching position with Mills College in Oakland, California, and continued to compose prolifically. From 1947 he combined his American teaching duties with a similar position at the Paris Conservatoire, remaining at both institutions until 1971, when his poor health forced him into retirement. He died in Switzerland three years later.