George Antheil est né en 1900 à Trenton (New Jersey, USA). Il commença à étudier la composition à l'âge de 16 ans avec Constantin von Sternberg (1852-1924), un élève de Franz Liszt, puis avec Ernest Bloch (1880-1959). En 1923, il s'installa à Paris, où il fréquenta Eric Satie (1866-1925), ainsi que le poète Ezra Pound, les écrivains James Joyce et Ernest Hemingway, ou encore les peintres Man Ray, Fernand Léger et Pablo Picasso. Le 4 octobre 1924, il fit ses débuts publics à Paris, et se donna d'emblée la réputation de « Bad Boy ». En 1926 fut créé le « Ballet Mécanique », composition relevant du « Futurisme », notoire par son orchestre de pianos, percussions, sonnettes électriques et hélices d'avions, mais dont la création américaine sera un désastre. Malgré l'accueil enthousiaste à Frankfort, en 1930, de la création de son opéra « Transatlantic », la crise monétaire internationale mit brutalement fin à sa brillante période « mondaine » en Europe, et obligea Antheil à retourner en Amérique, où il s'engagea politiquement, s'associa avec des artistes « populistes », et composa, à New York, pour le théâtre et le cinéma, et où il dut, pour subsister, travailler également comme journaliste. Installé à partir de 1936 à Hollywood, réussissant à concilier son travail pour le cinéma avec la création « sérieuse », Antheil connut alors une renaissance musicale, et composa alors nombre de ses oeuvres majeures, en particulier sa Quatrième symphonie (1942) « The plinsman and the Lady » (1946), le « Spectre of the Rose » (1946), la Sonatine pour violon et piano (1945), le Concerto pour violon (1946), les Cinquième et Sixième symphonies (1947-1948), « McKonkey's Ferry »(1948), la Sonate N°4 pour violon (1948), les Sonates pour piano N° 3 et 4 (1947-1948), « The fighting Kentuckian » (1949), « Knock on any door » (1949) et « Tom Sawyer » (1949). Il est mort à New York en 1959.
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major , glorious ,powerful Symphonies never heard10 mai 2000
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It is seldom thought about, but the American tradition of serious music has a well documented repertoire of symphonists; Copland,Mennin,Schuman,Bernstein,Roy Harris, Hanson,Diamond,Corigliano,Harbison, and Antheil.Many of these symphonies were written during the War,(we always had some international conflict), and American was thought of even then as the savior from Fascism, as policeman of the world, and the content of these symphonies for the most part adopted this triumphantism, but it also looks at and commented on the horrors and ambiguities of War, and that perhaps America's role had an air of anxiety,brutality and opaqueness attached to its face. Especially if you are an outsider looking in. These Antheil Symphonies are again great marvelous works but hardly ever played. The Chicago Symphony has yet to do one, and I can't phanthom the reason except the time honored one the reason of politics. These orchestral works are the late Antheil, he died in 1959, after having literally a thunderous start of a career hanging out with the avant garde in Paris during the Twenties with James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Picasso, and Erik Satie, all who attended his piano solo concerts. This popularity came to an end by the time of the Depression, when he retuned to the States as a War correspondent, and writer of a column, settling in Hollywood writing film scores. All these works here are powerful,with the brass proclaiming itself unencumbered by anyone. But then the gentle Antheil also introduces in quick succession of isolated colours of the flute,almost like Yankee Doodle. Antheil was a fair orchestrator,very robust sound he achieves,doubling the same tones,but it's odd that his more experimentalist strains, of the Ballet mechannique, of chord clusters, and extra-musical sounds, as airplane propellors, and the motoric drive, didn't find its way into his thinking for the orchestra. McKonkey's Ferry is a truly patriotic piece after the image of Washington crossing the Delaware on Christmas. Very livily,yet heavy and burdensome for an overture,it doesn't let you go, like Antehil tells us that something else more dangerous is at stake here. The National Symphony of the Ukraine with Theodore Kuchar play just as well as if Solti or Bernstein had a hand in the proceedings, with lots of balance yet the sound is harsh and strained, almost cracking from the sheer weight, a powerful sound from the top down,clean impacted sound. The contrast with Shostakovich is a fairly apt one, however Antheil's creativity had a greater conceptual freedom, greater imagination for structure and genre, although both were practicing film composers who brought that art to their orchestrations.
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Powerful but unsubtle compositions19 mars 2000
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The Naxos release of George Antheil's <Symphony No. 4, Symphony No.6, McKonkey's Ferry> (8.559033) gives a quotation comparing this American's music with that of Shastakovich. Indeed without being told the composer of the 4th Symphony, I might have guessed (at least) at a Russian origin. Like Shastakovich, Antheil tried to show the horrors of war (which he knew very well as a war correspondent) in musical terms; and the results are quite effective. The subtitle of the work is "1942." The cover of the CD shows Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People," which Antheil says was his inspiration for the 6th Symphony. Finally, "McKonkey's Ferry," which opens the program, is a tone poem celebrating Washington's crossing the Delaware on Christmas Eve. This is all new stuff to me. While I find it a bit blustery here and there--others might find more subtlety in those passages than I do-- I feel the composer did accomplish what he set out to do. And given the Naxos budget price, you too will probably find this well worth the purchase. The National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine is under Theodore Kuchar.
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No Bad Boy16 novembre 2000
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Years ago I learned that Antheil was the `bad boy of (American) music', so I wondered how his music should sound. Well, if this is a bad boy, he definitely has become more boy than bad. For my ears this are well-crafted symphonies with sometimes-piquant harmonies and a jazz-rhythm here and there. But they gave me great pleasure in these very good performances. For me it's unbelievable that Naxos can give us such great series like these American Classics, almost for nothing. I hope they will record one or two of Antheil's ballets too. And in the meantime CPO is doing a great job by recording all of Antheil's symphonies in exemplary performances.
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Tragic American Music4 janvier 2006
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The American infant terrible, George Antheil, is most famous for his outlandish mechanically-driven composition Ballet Mecanique. His serious concert music have not received much acclaim in the past, but now with Naxos' American Classics series, they may come into their own. Featured on the disk are his 4th and 6th Symphonies and his concert overture, McKonkey's Ferry.
Depicting George Washington's famous image as he crosses the Delaware River on Christmas night, 1776, Antheil composed the frigid McKonkey's Ferry, an American-based concert overture. The work is an aggressive, if not a bit rough-edged piece, that relies on a regularly falling melody and perpetual motion. In a minor mode throughout, Antheil shows the struggle of Washington's crossing with great imagination and musical imagery. A classic of Antheil's repertory.
His Symphony No. 4, subtitled 1942, is also a somewhat gloomy work, based around the inevitable outbreak of World War II. A brusque statement by unison brass and eventually piano, open the first movement; eventually the opening gives way to an expansive march, relying on bassoons, piccolos, and fanfares. Antheil combines the two ideas into a sort of mocking march to build to a dissonant climax; all dissolves into a quiet unrest. The second movement begins with a familiar sounding melody, almost Russian in nature, but one which is definitely tragic, almost march-like as well. A romantic interlude dispels the minor march for a while, with great leaps of yearning melodies, before the disquiet of the opening melody from the first movement returns. A dissonant and angry scherzo takes up the third movement. After a section of music put into fugue, a grotesque, dance-like feel evolves into an odd-fitting slow march to end the movement. Great tempo and mood changes make the final movement a breathtaking, nearly schizophrenic, mixture of ideas. The symphony concludes triumphantly. Traditionally orchestrated, the addition of passages for piano, xylophone, and woodblock, make this a unique look at war-time music. A creative composition and a personal viewpoint of a passionately American composer.
The Sixth Symphony begins in a menacing manner, with a short motive that becomes more rhythmical, and haunts the entire first movement. Antheil includes more marches, including a final grand march, again, almost Russian sounding. Quotations of The Battle Cry of Freedom are treated in an almost Ivesian fashion. The gritty march ends with emphatic timpani marking time. A melancholy, almost cinematic, waltz makes up the second movement. Of particular note, is a chilling solo piano and glockenspiel duet that is extremely creepy. The final movement is a rugged, forthright, nearly humorous display of optimism.
Antheil's music is often dissonant, but based in a tonal world; but especially, he is a master of writing melodies. Never in his music is there a lack of melodic material, and his settings of melodies are always inventive. The representative works on this disk are a little tragic, but certainly invigorating American music. This is the first I have heard the National Symphony of Ukraine play, and they are indeed splendid on this all-American disk. They play aggressively and with great sense of ensemble. Theodore Kuchar is true to the score and brings out all the important elements for a truly dramatic reading. If you are wanting to experience some different, and in some cases, important American music, this recording is recommended.
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Beat drums, beat! Blow, trumpets, blow!4 octobre 2000
Thomas F. Bertonneau
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Naxos' "American Classics" series has been uneven, not in the quality of the performances or in the engineering, but in the choice of repertoire. The symphonies by George Templeton Strong and Meredith Wilson vanish quickly from memory; Piston's violin concerti and Lees' Fourth Symphony, on the other hand, stand out as remarkable works and as valuable additions to the recorded catalogue. Despite some reservations, the disc of symphonic music (two symphonies and an overture) by George Antheil (1900-1959) belongs to the second category. Since everyone tells the story of Antheil's transformation from the "bad-boy" composer of the 1925 "Ballet Méchanique" to the relatively conservative symphonist of the 1940s and 50s, I'll skip it. Suffice it that Antheil recognized that he needed to connect with audience, that the symphony was the public concert-utterance par excellence, and that he could write them fluently. Symphony No. 4 dates from 1942 and is a "war symphony." Maybe more accurately it is a kind of symphonic pep-rally to stoke the morale of American audiences. Mind you, I find nothing wrong with that. (What else was Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" or Harris's Fifth Symphony?) While obviously echoing the musical vocabularies of the Soviet school (Shostakovich and Prokofiev), Antheil's Fourth manages to be a rollicking good, thoroughly march-oriented, blazingly brassy, echt American exercise in cinematographic triumphalism. It sounds for all the world like the classy soundtrack for a vintage Department of Defense film about "Our Boys in North Africa" or "The Allied Landing in Sicily." You can imagine, in your mind's ear, one of those 1940s newsreel voices narrating the action. The Sixth Symphony dates from 1948, and reflects an appreciation of Charles Ives, then being rediscovered by a hitherto coy musical establishment. Familar American tunes play hide and seek among the unfolding textures. Antheil fragments them and weaves polyphonic tapestries. The overture, "McKonkey's Ferry," is woven from the same cloth. Thoroughly enoyable. Antheil was left-wing in his sympathies. Jack up the volume, anyway, and enjoy the thumping political incorrectness of it.