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Monday, February 01, 2021

Bad Boy Goes Good: George Antheil

From the Classical Vault Dept.: Here’s a little snapshot of the Albany, NY-area concert scene at the beginning of 1985, when the Albany Symphony was weaving more recent works in with the classics (as it still, admirably, does), and when top-flight artist would land in the area for a performance or two.


GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL doesn’t share the reputation as troublemaker which both Beethoven and George Antheil had; still, his “Royal Fireworks Music” shares a place in the popular repertory with Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, a place that Antheil’s Sympbony No. 4 doesn’t enjoy. So you don’t have to be a troublemaker to insure lasting attention to your music, although it might help.

George Antheil
Antheil’s symphony was written during the European beginnings of World War II; the piece was intended as a response to some of the brutal events that were taking place. First performed in 1944, with Leopold Stokowski conducting the NBC Symphony, the piece won enthusiastic critical response, yet it hasn’t received a place of any permanence on the schedules of symphony orchestras since then. Perhaps Antheil’s reputation, sparked by a single piece, has dogged him and aided this obscurity. The piece, “Ballet Mechanique,” scored for eight pianos, anvils, bells and a host of other contraptions, was written in the 1920s when machinery was being widely celebrated in music: Carpenter’s “Skyscrapers” and Honegger’s “Pacific 231” were among the other such works.

But Antheil outdid them for sheer noisiness. He spent many years in Europe, particularly with the Berlin State Opera. When he returned to the U.S. in 1933 he worked for a while as a journalist before traveling to “Mecca” (read “Hollywood”) to compose for movies, although his most often-heard score was for a British film, Ealing Studio’s “The Lavender Hill Mob,” which starred Alec Guinness and featured scenes in a fiery casting foundry.

Should Antheil’s music be judged on the basis of a single, youthful work? His style changed considerably. By the time he got around to writing his fifth symphony, he sounded no more outrageous than Prokofiev, whose music that symphony practically emulates. Your opportunity to sample Antheil’s Symphony No. 4 comes this weekend when the Albany Symphony Orchestra presents a concert comprising the three works mentioned earlier, with special guest violinist Sheila Reinhold to play the Beethoven concerto.

Reinhold has a unique connection to the great violin-virtuoso tradition of the early part of this century. She began her violin studies with Vladimir Graffman, who was a student of Leopold Auer, the pedagogue whose schooling gave us an astonishing number of world-class artists. When Reinhold was 14, she was accepted into the master class of Auer’s most famous student, Jascha Heifetz, with whom she worked for five years.

The ASO concerts will take place Friday evening at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall and Saturday evening at Albany’s Palace Theater, both at 8 P.M.: tickets are available at the respective box offices, all CBO outlets; Records ‘N’ Such at Delaware Plaza and at Frame of Mind in Clifton Country Mall.

MISTER FLUTE – no, that’s not right. Monsieur Flute returns to the area with a recital at the Troy Music Hall Tuesday at 8 P.M. More than any other artists, Jean-Pierre Rampal has earned for the flute a position in the forefront of solo instruments: he also has helped to considerably enlarge the flute’s repertory.

He began doing so in 1946 when he made his first concert tour, with harpsichordist Robert Vevron-Lacroix: they continued this association for over 20 years. For the past ten years, Rampal has been touring with pianist John Steele Ritter, with whom he will perform in Troy.

His program probably is billed as an observance of Bach’s tercentenary or something, but who needs an excuse to play Bach? Anyway, the program includes two sonatas: in E-flat Major, BWV 1031, and in E Minor, BWV 1034. Also on the program are sonatas by Handel and Vivaldi, Czerny’s Duo Concertante, op. 129, a ragtime medley by Scott Joplin, and Genin’s “Variations on ‘Carnival of Venice,’” Op. 14. Tickets are priced at $15.50 and $13.50 and are avilable at all CBO outlets, Records ‘N’ Such at Stuyvesant Plaza and at the box office.

Metroland Magazine, 17 January 1985

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