DARIUS MILHAUD – String Quartet No. 1, Opus 5

Darius Milhaud [1892–1974] was a prolific French composer, being responsible for 18 string quartets. A bit of trivia – Nos. 14 & 15 can be played together as an octet, and this has occurred in performance a number of times.

His SQ No. 1 was composed when he was 20. Such a tender age! Dedicated to painter Paul Cezanne, it’s one of the loveliest first quartets that I have heard. The work is quite conservative in form, consisting of the traditional four movements. The outer movements (1 & 4) are rhythmically up tempo and charming, with the introduction being exceedingly joyful. The inner movements (2 & 3) are slow, with wonderful long melodies to be found here. In fact I would describe each movement as lyrical. For a youthful first quartet, it is a delightfully rewarding experience. Interestingly, some people have noted a hint of Debussy in the work.

Later in his life Milhaud edited the work and discarded the third movement. What a pity, I really enjoy it.

I am aware of two worthwhile performances. The Quator Parisii have recorded all 18 quartets on the Naive label, on five CDs, but they omit the third movement on this one. I recommend the Arriaga String Quartet on the budget Discover label. This excellent performance of the original four movements comes paired with String Quartet No. 2. Please disregard the negative reviews on Amazon about this disc. It is a wonderful rendition at a great price.

The Complete Quator Parisii set of the 18 quartets is available on Spotify and various versions of the work are on YouTube. A number of the quartets, including the first, can be found on earsense.

Listenability: A wonderful first string quartet.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.