Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

After The Five Comes Les Six

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Painting of Le Groupe des Six by Jacques-Émile Blanche

Le Groupe des six, 1921 painting by Jacques-Émile Blanche. Only five of Les Six are represented; Louis Durey was not present. In the center: pianist Marcelle Meyer. On the left, from bottom to top: Germaine Tailleferre, Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger, Jean Wiener. On the right, standing Francis Poulenc, Jean Cocteau; and seated Georges Auric.

Having told you about The Five in Russia, I thought it only fitting to tell you about Les Six in France.

Les Six (the name was inspired by the Russian group and first used by music critic Henri Collet) were a group of six composers  in Paris.  The six were Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, and Germaine TailleferreJean Cocteau was one of their main promoters.

The members of the group were friends before the concept of Les Six was put forward.  Although stylistically they were very different composers, they wanted to write music that was different from the works of Wagner, Debussy, and Ravel.

The one collaboration that all six collaborated in was L’album des Six, a series of piano pieces.  Later sporadic collaborative works were composed by some subset of the group.  Early in their association, they regularly gave concerts together.

Here is a video presenting extracts from L’Album des Six, performed by Dimitri Malignan.  You will hear Auric’s Prélude, Honnegger’s Sarabande, Milhaud’s Mazurka, and Poulenc’s Valse.

Here is Tailleferre’s Romance.

And last, Louis Durey’s Nocturne.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Six
  2. Bialek, Mireille, “Jacques-Emile Blanche et le Groupe des Six”. La Gazette: Des Amis des Musees De Rouen et du Havre No 15, December 2012, p 7.  http://amis-musees-rouen.fr/fichiers/gazette/gazette_2012.pdf
  3. http://music.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/0003_satie/lessix.shtml
  4. http://www.theguardian.com/friday_review/story/0,3605,332452,00.html
  5. http://holocaustmusic.ort.org/resistance-and-exile/french-resistance/les-six/

____
Image attribution:  Le Groupe des Six, 1921 painting  by Jacques-Émile Blanche [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ALes_Six_Tableau.jpg.  Only five of Les Six are represented; Louis Durey was not present. In the center: pianist Marcelle Meyer. On the left, from bottom to top: Germaine TailleferreDarius MilhaudArthur HoneggerJean Wiener. On the right, standing Francis PoulencJean Cocteau; and seated Georges Auric.

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One thought on “After The Five Comes Les Six

  1. Thanks, Chris! As with all such groupings, their styles are, as you say, disparate, though aesthetically compatible. One isn’t likely to mistake Honegger’s music for that of Poulenc or Milhaud (to mention only the heavy hitters in that group). The others wrote lightweight, likeable music- to a large extent for films; Taillefer (along with Lili Boulenger) was one of a handful of very good French women composers of the early 20th century- Lili, who died young, was a superb composer, IMO. These groupings are often somewhat arbitrary, but in the cases of the Five , and Les Six, the members were very aware of themselves as a group, and in general were mutually supportive and helpful to one another, as indeed were the so-called Impressionist painters (who disliked that moniker)- though not so much the so-called Expressionists (painters and composers, mainly German). Labels are of course really dangerous, and often misleading (“atonalist”, “minimalist” and so on)- and a handy way to avoiding actually experiencing something for ourselves. Great work- thanks!

    Tom

    Like

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