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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

George Antheil - Symphonies Nos. 1 & 6 (Hugh Wolff)


Composer: George Antheil
  1. Symphony No. 1: I. Innocènte
  2. Symphony No. 1: II. Vivo, alla zingaresco, poi "ragtime"
  3. Symphony No. 1: III. Doloroso elevato
  4. Symphony No. 1: IV. Ragtime
  5. Symphony No. 6 "after Delacroix": I. Allegro molto marcato
  6. Symphony No. 6 "after Delacroix": II. Larghetto
  7. Symphony No. 6 "after Delacroix": III. Allegro
  8. Archipelago, rhumba

Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra
Hugh Wolff, conductor
Date: 2000
Label: cpo



PERFORMANCE: ***** / SOUND: *****

George Antheil, born in New Jersey 100 years ago in July, peaked early in his career, scandalising Twenties Paris with his Futurist ‘machine music’, like the startlingly original Ballet mécanique. But even before that, this self-styled ‘bad boy of music’ had written a work in the respectable form of the symphony; and during his chequered later career, which ended in Hollywood, he composed another five (and two more without numbers). CPO presents the first and last, together with a brash 1935 concert rumba. No. 1 includes two slow movements in which fragments of melody drift across a hazily atmospheric background, to Ivesian effect – though Ives was unknown in 1922. Two quick movements combine ragtime rhythms with blatant echoes of Stravinsky: bits of Petrushka, a ‘Rewrite of Spring’. No. 6 of 1948 is an equally obvious attempt to go one better than Prokofiev’s wartime Fifth, with snatches of Americana thrown in. The American Hugh Wolff leads his Frankfurt orchestra in go-for-it performances, vividly recorded. Naxos partners No. 6 with No. 4, premiered by Stokowski in 1944, and a 1948 concert overture depicting an episode in the American Revolution. Both these are hero-worshipping homages to the martial Shostakovich of the Leningrad Symphony – though their stop-start collage methods are no substitute for Shostakovich’s organic movement-building. Theodore Kuchar’s Ukrainian orchestra plays well in an idiom which it must have found unexpectedly familiar, and is well recorded. But Antheil the symphonist, oddly fascinating if deeply flawed, is better represented all round by the premium-price CPO disc.

-- Anthony Burton, BBC Music Magazine

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George Antheil (July 8, 1900 – February 12, 1959) was an American avant-garde composer, pianist, author and inventor whose modernist musical compositions explored the modern sounds – musical, industrial, mechanical – of the early 20th century. Spending much of the 1920s in Europe, Antheil returned to the US in the 1930s, and thereafter spent much of his time composing music for films and, eventually, television. A man of diverse interests and talents, Antheil was constantly reinventing himself. He wrote magazine articles, an autobiography, a mystery novel, newspaper and music columns.


Hugh Wolff (born October 21, 1953, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France) is an American conductor. He received his education at Harvard and at Peabody Conservatory, studied composition with Olivier Messiaen, conducting with Charles Bruck and piano with Leon Fleisher. Wolff began his career in 1979 as assistant conductor to Mstislav Rostropovich at the National Symphony Orchestra. He was Principal Conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1997 to 2006. Wolff has recorded extensively for Teldec, Sony and others, has been nominated three times for a Grammy and has twice won the Cannes Classical Award.


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