French composer and pianist. A member of the group of composers known as Les Six, he was extremely prolific in a variety of styles and genres, influenced by jazz, the rhythms of Latin America, and electronic composition. He is noted for his use of polytonality (the simultaneous existence of two or more keys), as in the Saudades do Brasil (1921) for orchestra and L'homme et son désir (1918).
A pastoral element also runs through many of his works, as in his first string quartet 1912 and six chamber symphonies (1917–22). His Jewish ancestry is evident in the cantata Ani maamiu written for the Festival of Israel (1973). Other works include the operas Christophe Colombe/Christopher Columbus (1928) and Bolívar (1943), and the jazz ballet La création du monde (1923).
He studied violin and composition at the Paris Conservatory from 1909, under Gédalge, Widor, and d'Indy. His teachers also included Dukas. He was attaché to the French Legation at Rio de Janeiro 1917–19, and there he met Paul Claudel, who collaborated frequently with him as a librettist. In 1922 he was represented for the first time at the festival of the International Society for Contemporary Music. In 1940 he went to the USA as professor of music at Mills College, California, and in 1947 became professor of composition at the National Conservatory in Paris.
WorksStage operas include Christophe Colomb (1930); ballets L'homme et son désir (1918), Le bœuf sur le toit (1919), La création du monde (1923); incidental music for Oreste translated from Aeschylus (Agamemnon, Les Choëphores, and Les Euménides, 1917–22).
Orchestral works include 12 symphonies for large orchestra (1940–62), Suite provençale (1937), Saudades do Brazil; Ballade, Le carnaval d'Aix (1926), Concertino de printemps for violin and orchestra (1934).
Chamber 18 string quartets (1912–62), wind quintet La cheminée du Roi René (1939); sonatas and sonatinas for many instruments with piano; six piano works including Printemps (two volumes), Saudades do Brazil (two volumes, 1920–21); suite Scaramouche (1939) for two pianos.
Solo vocal and choral 14 books of songs including Poèmes juifs, Catalogue des fleurs for voice and chamber orchestra (1920); Liturgie Comtadine (1933), Service Sacré (1947).
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