MILHAUD Darius, Scaramouche
In May 1937 Milhaud wrote the incidental music for a production of Charles Vildrac’s play Le médecin volant (after Molière’s play of the same name), which opened at the Théâtre Scaramouche. He quickly repurposed pieces from it to create part of a suite – Scaramouche – for two pianos. As for the title, Milhaud almost certainly took it from the Scaramouche theatre and it was a particularly apt choice: in the traditional commedia dell’arte, Scaramouche is the clown, and the mood of the work is decidedly jovial, particularly the riotous Brazilian-inspired finale.
Milhaud also made an arrangement of Scaramouche for saxophone (an instrument he had already used to great effect in La création du monde) which he dedicated to Marcel Mule, who first played it in public. Both versions were published by Raymond Deiss, famous for only printing pieces he liked. During the French Occupation, when Milhaud was exiled in America, Deiss used his presses to produce Resistance literature, paying for this with his life when he was executed by the Nazis in 1943.
© Nigel Simeone