An Introduction to Twentieth Century Music

By Peter S. Hansen | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER VIII
LES TROIS

Half artist and half anchorite, part siren and part Socrates

PERCY MACKAY: France

No greater mistake could be made than to believe that Cocteau's ideals dominated Les Six throughout their creative lives. We have already said that Honegger did not enter this Cocteau-Satie phase at all, and for the others it was merely a passing one. Thus it would be erroneous to think of Milhaud or Poulenc as an eternal enfant terrible.

The group had no formal or dramatic break-up, for it was too informal an association for that. In the following years the young composers followed their individual destinies and developed their personal styles of composition, reassembling occasionally for reasons of sentiment or publicity. Durey retired to the country and from music; Mlle. Tailleferre wrote little of lasting importance; Auric became one of the most successful composers of music for motion pictures and eventually achieved international fame with his waltz, Moulin Rouge.

The remaining three, Milhaud, Honegger, and Poulenc, became France's leading composers of the second quarter of the century. Although their music was by no means similar-Milhaud's description of their essential characteristics (cited in the previous chapter) makes this clear-- they carried forward the ideals of order, clarity, and charm always associated with their country. Their careers and music will be the subject of this chapter.

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