Kenneth Kiesler / University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra

Milhaud: L'Orestie D'eschyle

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Darius Milhaud's musical encounter with Aeschylus' classic Oresteia trilogy consists not of a single work, but of three pieces of different natures written early in the composer's career. They are not unrelated, however. Milhaud worked with the same collaborator, poet Paul Claudel, and his text-centered setting persists through all three works. The first play, Agamemnon, is represented only by a single large scene, set for soprano, chorus, and orchestra. Les Choéphores (The Libation Bearers) includes a larger chunk of the second play, with an unusual orchestra including 15 percussionists and an odd sort of rhythmic speech. The final play, Les Euménides (The Furies), is a full-scale opera in itself and occupies two thirds of the three-CD set here. Completed in 1923, it has more of the style for which Milhaud is known, with Brazilian influences, but it still doesn't really sound like Milhaud. The earlier pieces are more traditional in nature, but the music also has an experimental side. Its orchestra is massive, with four saxophones and four saxhorns. Recordings like this, with a varied set of forces involving hundreds of musicians and singers, are increasingly difficult to make, and such projects increasingly find a home at large American music schools where multiple programs can be brought to bear. This concert performance of the whole was made in spring 2013 at the University of Michigan, benefiting from the superior acoustics of the school's Hill Auditorium. The young soloists shine, but the real standout is the University of Michigan Percussion Ensemble, a special strength at the school. Kudos go to conductor Kenneth Kiesler for holding together an inherently unwieldy project and maintaining the imposing tone Milhaud seems to have had in mind. Recommended for Milhaud buffs.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
L'Orestie d'Eschyle
1 2:37
2 4:34
3 2:28
4 0:58
5 1:13
6 4:14
7 2:10
8 3:11
9 2:06
10 1:00
11 1:39
12 2:26
13 1:19
14 2:19
15 5:42
16 4:02
17 2:02
18 2:12
19 1:46

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
L'Orestie d'Eschyle
1 6:37
2 1:26
3 1:31
4 1:44
5 4:43
6 0:44
7 0:26
8 2:57
9 4:33
10 0:27
11 1:40
12 1:55
13 1:25
14 1:42
15 1:26
16 0:41
17 1:33
18 1:28
19 8:00
20 2:09
blue highlight denotes track pick