Composers: To J.F.K.

The old man painfully hobbled on two canes to the seat in the center of the podium at Philharmonic Hall last week and a capacity audience rose to its feet in unison to pay homage. At 72, Darius Milhaud is crippled by arthritis and rarely appears publicly any more. But this was a special occasion—the New York premiere of Milhaud's Murder of a Great Chief of State, in memory of John F. Kennedy.

Milhaud conducted sitting down, but with burly authority. The score opened with a fast descending scale on the strings joined by the brassy blare of trumpets. Four...

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