At Tomoko’s recent concert at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music she played Darius Milhaud’s Scaramouche as a duet with one of her favorite students Linda Poligono.
Darius Milhaud was a French composer associated with 1920s avante guard. Growing up in the Provence region, he heard country airs and café music, which complemented his musical household experiences. His Italian mother had a lovely contralto voice, and Darius started playing piano duets at age three with his father. He also studied violin, although he knew early on that he preferred composing music. Nevertheless he performed his own music as an adult, and was considered an excellent conductor.
As an attaché in Brazil during World War I, Milhaud was taken with Brazilian popular music and tropical tones. When he returned to Paris, Darius came into contact with the jazz scene and several famous musicians: Honegger, Schoenberg, Webern, among others. As a Jew, Milhaud left Europe and settled in California to teach – and keep composing.
In the 1930s Milhaud created much film music, which led to his concert work Scaramouche, opus 165b for duet, written in 1937. Milhaud wrote four versions of Scaramouche. The first drew upon his incidental music piece for Moliere’s “Le médécin volant”/ “The flying doctor.” His second movement was based on an overture from Spilville’s Bolivar. This composition reflects a commedia dell’arte spirit. But Scaramouche’s true musical roots harken back to Milhaud’s years in Brazil, with its dance rhythms and syncopation. The first movement is quick and syncopated, recalling Brazilian urban popular dance. The second movement has three lyrical melodies that merge at the end. The third movement is a lively samba.
Scaramouche was the last piece played at Tomoko's fall concert, and was a joyful way to end the afternoon musical event.