The day I visited his studio, which contained thousands of pianola rolls, I felt as though I was entering a cave of Ali Baba. All these old rolls, all this forgotten music, were enough to leave any musician dumbfounded! Rex immediately piqued my curiosity by telling me that a piece for pianola and orchestra composed by Milhaud and first performedin Paris in 1928, on the same evening as Ravel's Bolero, had fallen into oblivion. That's when a kind of treasure hunt began. Rex found the orchestra score (the original!) at Northwestern University, in the United States.
Meanwhile, the publisher Universal came up with the orchestral material, which of course matched up perfectly with the score. Last, but by no means least, Rex Lawson heroically produced a new roll for the pianola part. Next, a conductor had to be found who would want to perform the piece again. That's where I came in! So that's how, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, La Bien-Aimée was brought back to life after going unheard for many years. What a pleasure to discover the pages of this score, which had never been recorded; to sit at the piano and imagine Milhaud developing the bits of piano music of Schubert and Liszt, the orchestration, sometimes comical, sometimes very refined; and then to listen to the roll that Rex had reconstructed. The experience was so exhilarating that we decided to make this recording with the Orchestre national d'Île-de-France. (Enrique Mazzola)