George Antheil (1900-1959, American)

(September 2018) Back in 2007 I had my Antheil spree and posted A LOT of reviews of his music on which I need to import over here – stay tune. I love the early, modernist and provocative George Antheil – the one he himself later called “the great empty chic”, when he rejected his former modernist and provocative style and favor of an obsession for “the form” and a more conservative style, much influenced by his endeavors in Hollywood film-music and ultimately anonymous. The badly-failed performance of his famous Ballet mécanique in 1926 at Carnegie Hall was the turning point – to the bad, and then the worse – in Antheil’s career, which until then had been – but in Europe only – that of a shooting star. Granted, Antheil always had a problem with imitation. In his earlier years, he imitated Stravinsky – the modernist Stravinsky of “Les Noces” – basing his music on the obsessive repetition of short rhythmic cells, but he brought the processes of Stravinsky one or two steps further. Ballet mécanique, as well as his brash compositions for piano and two first violin sonatas, remain incredible masterpieces – and enormous fun, too. Later, in his conservative years, he imitated Sibelius and Mahler, to the point even of plagiarizing – and composed only rehashes and pastiches.

So far, the only Antheil review I’ve got over here is of very minor and late piano pieces, not even originally meant for publication, Valentine Walzes, by Marthanne Verbit on her recital Valentines on Albany Troy 071 (1992). But stay tune for more Antheil reviews.

Comments are welcome