Born: May 27, 1888; Paris, France
Died: July 3, 1979; St. Tropez, France
Louis Durey would probably be a totally obscure French composer, instead of a semi-unknown, if it were not for his association with a handful of fellow composers in Paris after the First World War. Based on his friendship with Francis Poulenc, he became part of a circle of composers who were dubbed "Les Six." Thrust into the spotlight by a newspaper article, and kept there by their self-appointed spokesman Jean Cocteau, this group was quite theRead more sensation for a few years after the war. But Durey was never happy with the publicity, and in 1921 he moved to the south of France in order to live in semi-obscurity. He did return for a 1952 concert reuniting all six composers.
He studied music privately Leon Saint-Requier rather than in an educational center, but he was well attuned to all the iconoclastic currents that swirled around music in the 1910s and 1920s. His music reflects equal doses of the three "S"s: Satie, Stravinsky, and Schoenberg. It has even been postulated that Durey created the first piece of French twelve-tone music with his L'Offrande Lyrique in 1914. That same year, Durey began serving in the army; he found the experience dehumanizing. In protest he began composing an opera based on a German play.
His political statements would become stronger as he got older. A Communist, he set poems by Ho Chi Minh and Mao Zedong. He also wrote a number of rally songs for trade unionists and members of the political left. Considering the delicacy and precision of his early writing, this was quite a change in direction. His most important works include a Flute Sonatina sometimes programmed in recitals of music by "Les Six," Images à Crusoe, and a string quartet. Read less