The Ox on the Roof - Honegger, Milhaud, Auric, Poulenc, Tailleferre, Durey    (James Harding)
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The Ox on the Roof - Honegger, Milhaud, Auric, Poulenc, Tailleferre, Durey    (James Harding)
B0073. THE OX ON THE ROOF, Scenes from musical life in Paris in the Twenties. James Harding. London, Macdonald, 1972. 261pp. Index; Bibliography; Photos; DJ in mylar. Excellent, ex-lib copy.


“A merry bagatelle of Parisian bohemia which swoops down on ‘The Six’ - Honegger, Milhaud, Auric, Poulenc, Tailleferre and Durey - along with their standard-bearer-impresario Jean Cocteau and the lovable, dotty Erik Satie, pince-nez'd Socrates of the musical demimonde whose quirky airs were the point of departure for avant-garde French composers of the '20s. Harding is as playful as his subjects, eschewing all semblance of formal musicology in favor of a spirited recreation of the bouleyard atmosphere which nurtured the group. Capturing the exuberant eclecticism which mingled willy-nilly the traditions of the music hall with jazz, ballet, opera, fdm and chamber music, he casts his net wide to include Picasso, Diaghilev, Coco Chanel, Max Jacob, et al. - friends and sometimes collaborators of The Six. The naive abandon of the festivities comes across with gusto and the self-parodies and mock-heroics which outraged the Academie prove to be an integral part of the new aesthetic. Harding is so charmed by the wayward whimsy of the group that he frequently waives critical judgment in favor of the always-charming ambiance. Hence their excursions into surrealism, dada and Art Deco seem even more haphazard than in fact they were. Though very similar to Roger Shattuck's THE BANQUET YEARS (which deals with the pre-World War I years and also features the black-suited, umbrella-toting Satie), this is less impressive as cultural history - skimpier and more scattershot. But effervescent and graceful enough to snare all but the dourest pedant. His 1972 study, THE OX ON THE ROOF, of the French musical activities in the 1920s of the composers, including Poulenc and Milhaud, who comprised Les Six is one of his most acute.

James Harding is the Business and City Editor at THE TIMES in London. He was previously the Washington bureau chief of the FINANCIAL TIMES, He has written for THE WASHINGTON POST, THE NEW REPUBLIC, and SLATE, among other magazines.”