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Milhaud: The Oresteia of Aeschylus / S. Outlaw, J. Lane, T. Mumford, L. Phillips et al., soloists; Percussion Ens.; SO & Choir of the University of Michigan; Kiesler

Album Summary

>Milhaud, Darius : Agamemnon, incidental music for soprano, chorus & orchestra (Orestiean Trilogy no 1), Op.14
>Milhaud, Darius : Les Choephores, incidental music for vocal quartet, narrator, chorus & orchestra (Orestiean Trilogy
>Milhaud, Darius : Les eumenides, opera in 3 acts (Orestiean Trilogy no 3), Op. 41
Performers Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Part of the great French musical tradition and a member of Les Six, Darius Milhaud was an important avant-garde figure in early 20th century Paris. The Oresteia of Aeschylus trilogy arose from his lifelong interest in Greek mythology and drama, inspired by the expressive, syncopated rhythms of Paul Claudel's poetic texts. In addition to innovative rhythmic elements, the trilogy exhibits complex harmonic techniques, particularly polytonality, which Milhaud believed gave him more varied ways of expressing sweetness in addition to violence. Because the three parts of the Orestie trilogy were written over a 10-year period, each work has a distinct style. The trilogy, taken as a whole, provides a glimpse into the interaction between modern and traditional, as well as between the French and the foreign, which characterized the music of early 20th-century Paris. L'Agamemnon's fairly customary turn-of-the-century orchestra is expanded in Les Choéphores with the quite uncustomary supplement of 15 percussionists. Les Choéphores requires substantial speaking parts for the chorus and the leader of the slave women. In Les Euménides, Milhaud enriches the palette still further by adding two quartets: one of saxophones and one of saxhorns - 19th-century valved brass instruments once common in military bands but that almost never join an orchestra or accompany a choir.

The Guardian, 27th August 2014
It may well be the first time Milhaud's complete score has been available on disc...it's an operatic curiosity well worth investigating, and musically it often turns out to be much more than that.

American Record Guide, March/April 2015
The performance of this gigantic work deserves praise. The chorus and orchestra perform excellently under Kenneth Kiesler, who adds an interesting personal note in the booklet. The soloists all sing well. We can be grateful to Mr Kiesler, Mr Bolcom, and whoever else was responsible for reviving and recording this complex, fascinating work. To really appreciate this work (or any work, for that matter), one needs access to the text. Apparently it is available online. Even without the full text, this is an important recording of high quality.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA (04/07/2013).


"the law that is fate"
Fondly remembered is the pioneering Bernstein/NYP recording of Les Choephores released in the early 1960ís. Now this enterprising new release fills a major gap in the Milhaud recorded literature by providing the Oresteia in its entirety. The composerís life long obsession with Greek mythology and drama was the catalyst for this operatic trilogy which occupied Milhaud for the better part of a decade. The universal human preoccupations with fate, political power, morality, betrayal, revenge and justice have never been more poetically articulated than by Greek playwright Aeschylus in these three linked plays penned nearly 2500 years ago. Milhaud responds to the translation of his colleague Paul Claudel with writing that is strangely seductive in its ingenious juxtaposition of complex rhythms, novel harmonies, unusual orchestral colors and angular vocal lines that are alternately lyrical and declamatory. The orchestration is lean and incisive with prominent percussion (up to 15 players) throughout. Clocking in at 2 hours and 21 minutes, the trilogy is perhaps best absorbed piecemeal. The emotional and intellectual dividends garnered from experiencing this massive work offset the intense demands made on the listener. The various soloists range from good to excellent. The choirs, orchestra and percussion ensemble deliver impassioned, well played performances under the very capable leadership of conductor Kenneth Kiesler. Just how composer William Bolcom helped facilitate this project is quite an interesting tale as laid out in the comprehensive liner notes. A word about the sound: the miking array adopted by producer Tim Handley and sound engineer Jason Corey successfully delineates the individual elements of Milhaudís intricate vision while never compromising on impact or realism. Daunting but worth the effort.
Submitted on 12/19/14 by Allen Cohen 
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Works Details

>Milhaud, Darius : Agamemnon, incidental music for soprano, chorus & orchestra (Orestiean Trilogy no 1), Op.14
  • Performer: Lori Phillips (Soprano)
  • Conductor: Kenneth Kiesler
  • Ensemble: University of Michigan Percussion Ensemble
  • Running Time: 11 min. 12 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1913-1914

>Milhaud, Darius : Les Choëphores, incidental music for vocal quartet, narrator, chorus & orchestra (Orestiean Trilogy
  • Conductor: Kenneth Kiesler
  • Ensemble: University of Michigan Chorus
  • Notes: Composition written: 1915.
  • Running Time: 33 min. 18 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1915

>Milhaud, Darius : Les euménides, opera in 3 acts (Orestiean Trilogy no 3), Op. 41
  • Performer: Julianna DiGiacomo
  • Conductor: Kenneth Kiesler
  • Ensemble: University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra
  • Running Time: 2 min. 37 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1917-1923