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Naxos releases CD of Milhaud's "Oresteia of Aeschylus" performed by U-M student ensembles & UMS Choral Union


For the first time since it was completed in 1922, Darius Milhaud’s monumental operatic trilogy, L’Orestie d’Eschyle (Oresteia of Aeschylus), has been recorded and will be released by the Naxos label on September 9. The epic work is performed by the University Symphony Orchestra of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD); a 320-voice choir comprising the UMS Choral Union and SMTD’s Chamber Choir and Orpheus Singers; the SMTD Percussion Ensemble (under the direction of Joseph Gramley and Jonathan Ovalle, SMTD professors of percussion); and a cast of nine professional vocal soloists. The performance is conducted by Kenneth Kiesler, U-M’s director of university orchestras and music director of the University Symphony Orchestra; the choirs were directed by Jerry Blackstone, U-M’s director of university choirs and music director of the UMS Choral Union, and Eugene Rogers, associate director of choirs and conductor of the University Choir. The recording engineer was Jason Corey, associate professor and chair of SMTD’s Department of Performing Arts Technology.

The recording is the result of the first North American performance of the entire work, which is believed to be the first anywhere in the world since 1963. The University Musical Society (UMS), one of the country's leading presenters, which is located on the University of Michigan campus, produced the mammoth work for the live concert and recording. The concert took place in April 2013 in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Hill Auditorium, the renowned U-M concert hall. The last time UMS and SMTD collaborated on a recording was in 2004 with William Bolcom’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience, which went on to win four GRAMMY® Awards in 2006 (Best Choral Performance, Best Classical Contemporary Composition, Best Classical Album and Producer of the Year).

Based on the plays by Aeschylus, The Oresteian Trilogy is a quintessentially modern piece based on an ancient text. It relates the bloody chain of murder and revenge within the royal family of Argos through three movements: L’Agamemnon, Les Choéphores, and Les Euménides.

Part of the great French musical tradition, Darius Milhaud was an important avant-garde figure in early 20th-century Paris. The Oresteia of Aeschylus trilogy arose from his lifelong interest in Greek mythology and drama, inspired by the expressive, syncopated rhythms of Paul Claudel’s poetic translation of the texts from Greek to French. In addition to innovative rhythmic elements, the trilogy exhibits complex harmonic techniques, particularly polytonality, which Milhaud believed gave him more varied ways of expressing sweetness in addition to violence.

William Bolcom, U-M professor emeritus of composition, was instrumental in bringing the work to U-M.  He had been a student of Milhaud’s in the 1950s and remained a close friend until the composer’s death in 1974. When Bolcom was introduced to the Trilogy, he knew he was encountering something remarkable: “It absolutely knocked me over,” he said. “It has a certain kind of savagery, which is straight out of the Aeschylus.” Bolcom vowed to himself that he would someday arrange for a performance of the work. With the success of the performances and CD of his Songs of Innocence and of Experience, he was emboldened to have the work performed by the student musicians of U-M’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance, whose orchestras, choirs and bands are renowned for their excellence.

The Trilogy is a piece of music-theatre so sonically brilliant and innovative, so striking and dramatic, that it reaches out and makes a visceral, palpable impact,” said conductor Kenneth Kiesler.

Musicologist and Milhaud scholar Frank Langlois wrote that the project gave Milhaud “free rein to his rhythmic experiments as well as to his lyrical and dramatic temperament.” Incorporating whips and hammers into the orchestration, long percussive sections featuring nearly 20 different instruments, and a chorus that’s required to groan, whistle, and shriek, The Oresteian Trilogy offered an exciting challenge for the student performers. “It’s very theatrical, very colorful music,” said Jerry Blackstone. “ It does not keep you at arms length; it draws you in.” 

The CD of Milhaud's Oresteia of Aeschylus is now available to pre-order at



Widely recognized as one of the preeminent performing arts schools in the nation, the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) has produced performing arts leaders since its founding in 1880. SMTD is distinguished by its unparalleled synergy of scholarship, artistry and comprehensive education in all disciplines of performance as well as in research and pedagogy, and is known for interdisciplinary experiences that can only be offered in a world-class research university. With a celebrated history of traditional conservatory programs, the school also offers acclaimed programs in jazz, modern dance, musical theatre, interarts performance and performing arts technology.



The University Musical Society is an independent non-profit affiliated with the University of Michigan, presenting over 70 music, theater and dance performances by professional touring artists each season. One of the oldest performing arts presenters in the country, UMS is committed to connecting audiences with performing artists from around the world in uncommon and engaging experiences. With a program steeped in music, dance and theater, UMS contributes to a vibrant cultural community by presenting approximately 60-75 performances and over 100 free educational activities each season. UMS also commissions new work, sponsors artist residencies, and organizes collaborative projects with local, national and international partners. For more information, please visit



In addition to being an award-winning classical label, Naxos of America is the #1 independent classical music distributor in the U.S. and Canada. Specializing in state-of-the-art distribution, marketing and promotion, Naxos of America distributes nearly 50,000 titles on CD and DVD to traditional brick and mortar retail, as well as offering a comprehensive suite of services tailored to consumer direct fulfillment. Naxos of America is also the largest digital distributor of independent classical music, supplying a catalog of over 50,000 albums to hundreds of digital download and mobile outlets worldwide. Naxos of America offers marketing, e-marketing, publicity, e-publicity, physical and digital e-commerce services, licensing opportunities, streaming services, sales and customer service for all new releases and active catalog titles of Naxos Records and more than 400 distributed labels.


Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)

L’Orestie d’Eschyle (Oresteia of Aeschylus)

 L’agamemnon, Les Choéphores, Les Euménides

Libretto by Paul Claudel

Released by NAXOS

8.660349-51 3 CDs Playing Time: 02:21:24 • $29.99

A co-production of UMS and the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance

University Symphony Orchestra

Percussion Ensemble, directed by Joseph Gramley and Jonathan Ovalle

University Choir

UMS Choral Union

Chamber Choir

Orpheus Singers

Kenneth Kiesler, conductor

Jerry Blackstone and Eugene Rogers, chorus masters

Sophie Delphis, speaker

Julianna Di Giacomo, Lori Phillips and Brenda Rae, sopranos

Kristin Eder and Tamara Mumford, mezzo-sopranos

Jennifer Lane, contralto

Dan Kempson and Sidney Outlaw, baritones

Jason Corey, recording engineer



Contacts for Naxos of America

Raymond Bisha

Kelly Rach


Contacts for University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance

Marilou Carlin

Stephanie Miller


Contact for University Music Society

Truly Render




past news

November 2015
October 2014

Anisha Nandi, from The Michigan Daily, sat down with professor Michael Gould to talk about his "Remember Me" show. The video can be seen on the Michigan Daily website.   10/01/2014

July 2014

Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Dance, Peter Sparling is a recipient of a Distinguished University Professorship. Effective September 1, Sparling will be a Rudolf Arnheim Distinguished University Professor. This appointment is one of the highest honors the University can bestow upon a faculty member.   07/18/2014

Professor Patricia Hall will be presenting her paper, "Alban Berg's 'Guilt' by Association to the Music, Censorship and Meaning in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union conference at the Colburn School in Los Angeles this August.   07/12/2014

April 2014

Prof. Ed Sarath Receives U-M's "Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award" 04/21/2014

Professor Kuster Wins Prestigious OPERA America Grant 04/04/2014

Professor Mukherji to Speak in London this July 04/04/2014

Áine Heneghan, Assistant Professor of Music Theory, will present her research on Schoenberg's Formenlehre at the following conferences, all in 2014: Music Theory Midwest (Appleton, WI), the Eighteenth Biennial International Conference on Nineteenth-Century Music (Toronto, Canada), EuroMAC (Leuven, Belgium), and the annual meeting of the Society for Music Theory (Milwaukee).   04/01/2014

March 2014

U-M UpstART Festival Begins 03/31/2014

A Multimedia Installation on Climate Change 03/28/2014

Wayne Petty, Associate Professor of Music Theory, will read his paper, "Some Multimovement Designs in C. P. E. Bach's Late Keyboard Sonatas" at the Seventh EuroMac conference, which will gather scholars from all music theory societies in Europe in Leuven, Belgium, from 17 to 21 September, 2014.  An adaptation of the paper will be presented to the Society for Music Theory in Milwaukee in the Fall of 2014.   03/26/2014

Walter Everett, Professor of Music Theory, announces the publication of Los Beatles como músicos: De Revolver de la Antología (Buenos Aires: Eterna Cadencia, 2013), the Spanish translation of his The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver through the Anthology (Oxford University Press, 1999).   03/21/2014

Celebration of Professor George Shirley's 80th Birthday 03/19/2014

Prof. Korsyn presents keynote in The Hague, serves in scholarly appointments 03/14/2014

December 2013

In January 2014 Professor Wayne Petty will read the paper, "Wilhelm Fischer and the Fortspinnung-type Sonata Exposition," at the Seventh International Conference on Music Theory in Tallin and Pärnu, Estonia.  The conference theme is "Musical Form: Mapping the Territories."   12/17/2013

AmeriGrove II, edited by Professor Charles Garrett, is published 12/13/2013

November 2013

Gosman Presents Beethoven Research 11/16/2013

Department of Music Theory Announces Visiting Speakers of 2014 11/16/2013

Everett Launches Beatles Observances 11/16/2013

Interarts professor Holly Hughes presents The Dog and Pony Show (Bring Your Own Pony) in a webcast performance at the Chicago Humanities Festival on Mon., Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Her newest performance work, the piece offers a poetic and comic meditation on midlife crises in the key of canine.   11/01/2013

September 2013

SMTD Welcomes New Faculty 09/27/2013

Ramon Satyendra, associate professor of music theory, has published his essay, "Morphisms of Generalized Interval Systems and PR-Groups" (co-authored with Thomas Fiore and Thomas Noll), in Journal of Mathematics and Music 7/1.   09/20/2013

Alan Gosman Co-authors New Beethoven Book 09/06/2013

July 2013

Professor Ashley Lucas and three Theatre & Drama students are engaged in an intensive exchange program with UniRio in Rio de Janiero, Brazil this summer, where they are blogging about their experiences in UniRio's prison arts program and more.   07/12/2013

June 2013

SMTD Mourns Professor Emeritus Erling Bengtsson 06/10/2013

Holly Hughes, professor of interarts performance in the Department of Theatre & Drama, was profiled in Hyperallergic, an online magazine about art and culture, which included a Q&A with Hughes about her role as one of the "NEA Four."   06/06/2013

Music theory professor Walter Everett's role as an expert on the music of the Beatles was the subject of an article in      06/06/2013

Hall presents in Copenhagen 06/03/2013

May 2013

Robert Hurst, associate professor of jazz and contemporary improvisation, was featured in a Q&A article in on the occasion of the release of his new CD, BOB: a palindrome.   05/01/2013

November 2012
November 2011
February 2010
Current Faculty News
Prof. Ellen Rowe honored as Arthur F. Thurnau Professormore
Theatre professor's play inspired by deadly incident on Mexican bordermore

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower