“In 2004, a package with three impressively oversized scores arrived in my studio with this note from the publisher: “Sent at the request of William Bolcom.” They revealed Milhaud’s setting of Claudel’s French translation of Aeschylus’ Oresteian tragedy, packed with powerful music and words, several roles for principal singers, and multiple choruses. There were also the somewhat unusual occurrences of rhythmically notated dramatic speaking, and the distribution of one role – the goddess Athena – to a trio of singers. As the three hand-delivered scores constituted the three acts of just the final component in the trilogy, Les Euménides, I could only guess the magnitude of the entire piece.”
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.
Listen to a clip of Les Euménides, Act III – XIX.
Toutes celles qui accompagnent
Listen to a clip of Les Choéphores – IV. Présages:
Que de fois la terre a enfanté la terreur
About the Artists
Kenneth Kiesler is one of the most prominent conductors of his generation and one of the world’s sought-after mentors of conductors. Hehas conducted the National Symphony, Chicago Symphony and Chamber Orchestra of Paris and has led dozens of premières and recordings. Kiesler received the 2011 American Prize in Conducting, the silver medal at the 1986 Stokowski Competition, and the American Symphony Orchestra League’s 1988 Thompson Award for an outstanding American music director under the age of 35.
The University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra is a training ground for young musicians, noted for its highly regarded orchestral conducting programme which is ranked first in the United States. Its reputation as one of the leading orchestras of its kind was confirmed in 2005 when it received the GRAMMY® Award for Best Classical Album for the first recording of William Bolcom’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience (8.559216-18). In 2011, the ensemble was the recipient of the prestigious American Prize in Orchestral Performance.
The UMS Choral Union has performed with many of the world’s distinguished orchestras and conductors in its 135-year history. Based in Ann Arbor under the aegis of the University of Michigan's Musical Society, the 175-voice chorus, led by music director Jerry Blackstone, is known for its definitive performances of large-scale works for chorus and orchestra.
The University of Michigan Percussion Ensemble has commissioned, performed and recorded works from a global array of musical cultures. Many of the compositions premièred have gone on to enter the standard percussion canon. The Ensemble is directed by Joseph Gramley and Jonathan Ovalle.
The University of Michigan Chamber Choir, conducted by Jerry Blackstone, performs a broad spectrum of repertoire and frequently collaborates with instrumental ensembles. Its 45 members are students majoring in vocal performance, music education, or conducting.
The University of Michigan Orpheus Singers is a 25-voice ensemble led by graduate choral conductors. They frequently appear with instrumental ensembles and collaborate with the Chamber and University Choirs in the presentation of major works for chorus and orchestra.
“The orchestral playing is first rate. The singing ranges from a polished art-music style...to the unvarnished vocal forms that some of the pop idioms demand. And the recorded sound is superb, an achievement worth noting in a work that ranges so freely through the spectrum of timbres.” – The New York Times