The Oboe Music of 'Les Six'

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Established in the 1920s, ‘Les Six’ was a group of young composers looking to find their way in the musical world in France during a tumultuous time in Europe. After World War I, the path to success for a composer had changed dramatically, forcing composers to develop new methods and opportunities to have their works performed. Georges Auric (1899–1983), Louis Durey (1899–1979), Arthur Honegger (1892–1955), Darius Milhaud (1892–1974), Francis Poulenc (1899–1963), and Germaine Tailleferre (1892–1983), coined ‘Les Six’ by Henri Collet, and led by Jean Cocteau found a viable model through which their works would be performed. Though they only worked together for a short time, with vastly different styles, they endeavored to forge a new distinctively French sound during a time of rising musical nationalism. Post-war Paris was a place of international collaborations, with Stravinsky making waves, and the Ballet Russes becoming a fixture. Though collaborations were happening on an international scale, musically, a new ideal of a distinct French sound was occurring. This international collaboration should not be understated, as members of ‘Les Six’ would also take part in these partnerships. After World War I, the hopes of much of Europe were to create an international stage of artists, and though successful during the 1920s, nationalism was once again rising, separating cultures and eventually leading to World War II.

This dissertation focuses on some of the music written for the oboe by these six composers. Each chapter highlights one of the members of ‘Les Six’ and discusses a few of the works from the composer’s oeuvre. These noted works include compositions written by the composers when they were formally ‘Les Six’ and some written later in their careers. While exploring the period that the composer wrote these works, this dissertation will also examine what makes each composition stylistically unique. Through solo and chamber works, both large and small, this dissertation project presents some well-known works of the oboe repertoire as well as some infrequently performed hidden gems.

This dissertation may be found on ProQuest and all of the recordings associated may be found through the Digital Repository at the University of Maryland.

Recital 1

Performed October 25, 2017 at 5PM in Guildenhorn Recital Hall

Sonatine, op. 335 Darius Milhaud (1892–1974)

 I. Avec charme et vivacité

 II. Souple et clair

 III. Avec entrain et gaîté

Josiah Stocker, piano

Rondo Germaine Tailleferre (1892–1983)

Josiah Stocker, piano

Impromptu, GA.164 Georges Auric (1899–1983)

Josiah Stocker, piano

Menuet Germaine Tailleferre (1892–1983)

Josiah Stocker, piano

Trois Pièces Brèves for Oboe solo op.115 Louis Durey (1888–1979)

Sonata for Oboe and Piano, FP.185 Francis Poulenc (1899–1963)

   I. Elégie

   II. Scherzo

   III. Déploration

Josiah Stocker, piano


Trois Countrepoints, H.43 Arthur Honegger (1892–1955)

  I. Prélude

  II. Choral

  III. Canon sur basse obstinée    

Grace Wang, piccolo; Tiffany Lu, violin; Samantha Flores, cello

Rêves de Jacob, op.294 Darius Milhaud (1892–1974)

  I. Jacob’s Pillow

  II. Jacob’s Ladder

  III. Prophecy

  IV. Second dream: fight with a dark angel and benediction

  V. Hymn to Israel 

Tiffany Lu, violin; Timothy MacDuff Jr., viola; Samantha Flores, cello;

Morgan Daly, double bass

Recital 2

Performed April 24, 2018 at 8PM in Ulrich Recital Hall

Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra, op. 365 Darius Milhaud (1892–1974)

   I. Animé

   II. Avec Sérénité

   III. Animé

Hui Chuan Chen, piano

Trio for Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon, GA.114 Georges Auric (1899–1983)

    I. Décidé

    II. Romance

    III. Final

Melissa Morales, clarinet; Jonathan Zepp, bassoon


Pastorale, op 147                                                          Darius Milhaud (1892–1974)

Melissa Morales, clarinet; Jonathan Zepp, bassoon

Sonate for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, and Piano, op. 47    Darius Milhaud (1892–1974)

     I. Tranquille

     II. Joyeux

     III. Emporté

     IV. Douloureux

Natasha Costello, flute; Melissa Morales, clarinet; Hui Chuan Chen, piano

Recital 3

Performed October 11, 2018 at 8PM in Guildenhorn Recital Hall

Stanford Serenade, op.430 Darius Milhaud (1892–1974)

I. Gaiement

II. Lent et paisible

III. Vivement

Hui-Chuan Chen, piano

Trois Chansons Basques, op.23 Louis Durey (1888–1979)

I. Prière

II. Polka

III. Attelage

Juliana Franco, soprano; Sarah Balzer, English horn; Dane Clark, clarinet

Qun Ren, bassoon

Sarabande Germaine Tailleferre (1892–1983)

Dane Clark, clarinet

Quatre Poèmes de Max Jacob, FP.22 Francis Poulenc (1899–1963)

I. Est-il un coin…

II. C’est pour aller au bal

III. Poète at Ténor

IV. Dans le Buisson de Mimosa

Juliana Franco, soprano; Grace Wang, flute; Dane Clark, clarinet;

Qun Ren, bassoon; Luke Spence, trumpet


Divertessement, op.107 Louis Durey (1888–1979)

I. Animé

II. Lento

III. Très animé

Dane Clark, clarinet; Qun Ren, bassoon

Concerto da Camera, H.196 Arthur Honegger (1892–1955)

I. Allegretto amabile

II. Andante

III. Vivace

Grace Wang, flute; Hui-Chuan Chen, piano