Scaramouche Suite

By Darius Milhaud
Composed in 1937

Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) was one of France’s most intriguing 20th-century composers. After studying at the Paris Conservatoire, he secured a position in 1917 as a cultural attaché at the French Embassy in Brazil, where he received much exposure to Brazilian music. Upon returning to Paris in 1919, he became associated with the circle of famous early 20th-Century French composers known as “Les Six.”

The author of numerous symphonic and chamber works, Milhaud originally composed the music for Scaramouche in 1937 as incidental music for saxophone to accompany a children’s play. He was then asked to transcribe the music for two pianos, which he did as a three-movement suite. The transcription proved so popular that he then re-orchestrated the suite for saxophone and orchestra in 1940, when it was premiered by the famous French saxophonist Marcel Mule.

The music is in three movements – Vif , Modéré, and Brazileira. The first movement is a witty dialogue between the solo saxophone and orchestra, with some motifs loosely based on an English folk song. The second movement is more reflective, with the soloist initially juxtaposed against a sonorous muted chorus of trumpets, trombones, bassoons and basses. The last movement, based on samba rhythms, is one of his most recognizable works and clearly shows the influence of his early Brazilian interlude.