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American Classics - Antheil: Ballet Mécanique, Etc /Spalding


Release Date: 09/18/2001 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8559060   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  George Antheil
Conductor:  Daniel Spalding
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 59 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews


George Antheil's infamous Ballet Mécanique exists in (basically) three versions, the first of which (for lots of synchronized mechanical pianos and percussion) has only recently been premiered and recorded for the first time by the UMass Lowell Percussion Ensemble. The version that scandalized Paris audiences in 1926 actually was an arrangement for lots of normal pianos and percussion, and this version was recreated on a long out-of-print MusicMasters disc. Daniel Spalding and his intrepid ensemble take on the composer's 1953 revision for the time-honored (via Stravinsky and Orff) ensemble of four pianos and percussion, an arrangement that reduces the score by about half while preserving the
Read more most important thematic material. It's a fine work in its own right, more conventionally "listenable" than the early versions, and it's easy to understand Antheil's desire to give the music wider currency. Spalding and his ensemble play very well indeed, and the recording balances the various special effects (airplane propellers and electric bells) in such a way that they register without ever becoming totally obnoxious.


You can't help but feel sorry for Antheil's subsequent career misfortunes. After all, no one today seriously castigates Stravinsky for not writing more Rites of Spring, and we can only view with bemusement the cold shoulder given Antheil's post "Mécanique" production, especially considering the fact that even this notorious work was as ignored in performance as the rest of his music. Antheil clearly recognized that, like Stravinsky's "Rite", the Ballet Mécanique was an artistic dead end, but as this disc proves, he wrote plenty of fine music both before and after it. Take the Serenade for String Orchestra No. 1. Here's a delightful piece, humorous and lyrical, full of rhythmic energy and good tunes. The Symphony for Five Instruments very cleverly balances an unusual ensemble of viola, flute, bassoon, trumpet, and trombone, and will appeal to anyone who enjoys the chamber music of Poulenc. The Concert for Chamber Orchestra (actually a wind octet), also reeks of Stravinsky and Les Six, but you'd be hard pressed to find anything by that septet of composers precisely like it.


In short, Antheil's neglect is completely unjustified, as this and other fine recordings now appearing on Naxos and CPO clearly demonstrate. As with the Ballet, Spalding and the Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra play these diverse other works with affection and relish. Naxos provides them with excellent recorded sound too. A winner in every respect, this disc should go far toward supporting the ongoing rehabilitation of this seminal figure in 20th century music.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Ballet méchanique by George Antheil
Conductor:  Daniel Spalding
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 10/1999 
Venue:  War Memorial, Trenton, New Jersey 
Length: 15 Minutes 58 Secs. 
2.
Serenade for Strings no 1 by George Antheil
Conductor:  Daniel Spalding
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1948; USA 
Date of Recording: 10/1999 
Venue:  War Memorial, Trenton, New Jersey 
Length: 15 Minutes 38 Secs. 
3.
Symphony for 5 Instruments by George Antheil
Conductor:  Daniel Spalding
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1922-1923; Berlin, Germany 
Date of Recording: 10/1999 
Venue:  War Memorial, Trenton, New Jersey 
Length: 11 Minutes 51 Secs. 
Notes: Ver: 2nd (1923) 
4.
Concerto for Chamber Orchestra by George Antheil
Conductor:  Daniel Spalding
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932; USA 
Date of Recording: 10/1999 
Venue:  War Memorial, Trenton, New Jersey 
Length: 15 Minutes 38 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Ballet mecanique: Ballet Mecanique
Serenade, No. 1: I Allegro
Serenade, No. 1: II Andante molto
Serenade, No. 1: III Vivo
Symphony for 5 Instruments (second version): I Allegro
Symphony for 5 Instruments (second version): II Lento
Symphony for 5 Instruments (second version): III Presto
Concerto for Chamber Orchestra

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