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A Jazz Sym. -Piano Cncrtos 1&2
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|1. Piano Concerto No.1|
|5. A Jazz Symphony|
|6. Jazz Sonata|
|9. Death Of Machines|
|10. Little Shimmy|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It is rare that music makes me laugh out loud, but I guffawed a number of times, especially in the solo piano pieces -- Jazz Sonata, Can-Can, Sonatina, Death of Machines, and Little Shimmy -- by the unexpectedly eccentric rhythms and harmonies, all jazz-inflected. The same is a little less so in the two piano concertos and the Jazz Symphony (which is a piano concerto in all but name because of the important obbligato piano part).
German pianist Markus Becker, with whom I was unfamiliar, has the full measure of these pieces and he is given expert support by the NDR Radio Philharmonic under Eiji Oue. There is an immediacy to the recorded sound that is lifelike.
*Image two rows of paintings, three to each row, each painting tilted this way and that. Individually there is disorder but seen from afar, the totality makes artistic sense.
The Piano Concerto No. 1 was written in Berlin in 1922 and was influenced by the music of Igor Stravinsky. The concerto is a mix of astringent rhythms and percussive effects mixed with more reflective passages. The orchestration is very effective and Antheil uses a xylophone, gong and includes jazzy elements that make the concerto quite an original work aside from his homage to Stravinsky.
The Piano Concerto No. 2 comes from 1926 and has a more lyrical approach than the earlier work. The concerto is a neoclassical homage to Bach, utilizing the keyboard music as inspiration. It is scored for a small orchestra and consists of three movements played together: overture, aria and toccata. The influence of Stravinsky is present but I also think of the French music of the period as well. There are almost too many ideas in the concerto that makes it a bit disorganized, as if Antheil just linked his melodies without care. Overall, the Second Concerto may not have the drive of the first but the music is cheerful with an abrupt ending when the music just stops.
The Jazz Symphony was written in 1924 but the version recorded here is from 1955 when Antheil expanded the orchestration. It was the composer's contribution to George Whiteman's "Second Experiment in Modern Music" in 1925. Rather than jazz, the symphony seems more influenced by Latin American melodies, a bit like the ballet Capital of the World.
There follows a selection of George Antheil's piano music nicely played by Markus Becker. The Jazz Sonata and Can-can are playful pieces that are not at all ultra modern. The Sonatina is likewise a work more rooted in traditional piano literature. Death of the machines is more experimental while the short Little Shimmy is a seductive and sexy piece written with his future wife Boski in mind, with whom he was living with in Paris.
The concertos are well-played by Markus Becker and he is ably supported by the NDR Radiophilharmonie under Eiji Oue. I liked having the two concerti together on one disc and the mix of piano music. The booklet has a lengthy biography of Antheil that I find wordy and in need of a more straightforward presentation of the music. This is a great disc for anyone interested in George Antheil's music. For an introduction to his music I would recommend the symphonies that are also available of the cpo label.
The Jazz Symphony is also great. I hear a lot of Jazz influence on Antheil's music of the 20s but usually not as much as here. Though very different I think it can take its place with Rhapsody in Blue or La Création du monde (actually, if I have to say Milhaud I think it's closer to Le Baeuf sur le toit) in the pantheons of early Jazz influenced classical.
The rest of the CD is devoted to piano music. I wish there more orchestral music even if they had to put on Ballet Mécanique, which incorporates some of the piano music heard here. The music is good and played well, I just think more orchestral music would have fit in better.
Over all I liked this. Not my very favorite (thus 4 stars) but very good and recommended.