'... compellingly energetic rhythmic forces, clear, translucent orchestration, bold themes and simple structures.'
Symphonies by George Antheil and Paul Creston -
examined by PETER DALE
The American composer George Antheil was an exact contemporary of Aaron
Copland. They were both born in 1900. They both studied in Paris in the
1920's and, later in their careers, they both turned their backs to a degree
upon modernist European music to find their own self-consciously American
There the similarities end. Antheil enjoyed early successes - even notoriety
with his Ballet Mécanique of 1926 - but then suffered virtually
total neglect in his 30's. He gave up composition. He was never offered
comfortable pastures in academe. He was reduced to hack journalism, the
nadir of which was a season as an Agony Aunt! But in his last two decades
he began writing successful film scores, operas, symphonies and a series
of concert overtures illustrating formative events from American history.
The two symphonies and the overture on this disc come from this fruitful
period, and very interesting they are too.
For all that Antheil deliberately strove to write not for academics or
reluctant Americans still hankering after European models but for that elusive
figure The Common Man, his music sounds remarkably international. More or
less Romantic (but of a rather muscular kind), it is not particularly American
in flavour, even when he quotes a Civil War Song. Nor is it distinctively
or idiosyncratically personal, and only rarely is it subjectively confessional.
And yet it's not bland. Its virtues are quite compellingly energetic rhythmic
forces, clear, translucent orchestration, bold themes and simple structures.
In these pieces there is much of a martial flavour [listen
- Antheil CD track 2, 0:00-0:30] - dry, objective and forceful - as
if war were a fact of life but nothing to boast about nevertheless, and
somehow inhuman and mechanical. In a word: rather impressively honest. There
is a controlled atmosphere of menace which also impresses because the temptation
to unleashed violence on the one hand and inconsolable sorrow on the other
are resisted. So are the sirens of heroic posturing, titanic struggling
and strutting triumphalism.
Copyright © 2 September 2000
Peter Dale, Danbury, Essex, UK
CD INFORMATION - NAXOS 8.559033 - GEORGE ANTHEIL
PURCHASE THE ANTHEIL DISC FROM AMAZON
PURCHASE THE ANTHEIL DISC FROM CROTCHET
CD INFORMATION - NAXOS 8.559034 - PAUL CRESTON
PURCHASE THE CRESTON DISC FROM AMAZON
PURCHASE THE CRESTON DISC FROM CROTCHET
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