Antheil: Piano concertos, etc./Becker

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

George Antheil wrote wonderfully crazy, uninhibited, and sometimes-prophetic music. Listen to the recently unearthed First piano concerto, where the soloist’s bare-boned unison lines play against fast moving orchestral color chords, and you’ll think, “Aha! Messiaen!” Except that Antheil came first. However, much of this one-movement work’s remainder begs, borrows, and steals from Stravinsky’s Petrouchka. The Second concerto is characterized by energetic bitonal counterpoint, hiccupping syncopations, and the kind of chugging, stuck-in-the-mud Baroque-ish continuity you often get from Milhaud or Villa-Lobos. The Jazz Symphony is a miniature piano concerto whose discontinuous shifts of style and mood foretell the wacky accompaniments Carl Stalling fashioned for Bugs Bunny cartoons. It gathers a palpable momentum and sense of forward urgency absent from the longer concertos. This comment also applies to the short, virtuosic solo pieces that fill out the disc.

I’m sure every pianist within Markus Becker’s reach will line up to rent his octaves after hearing him sail through the brief Jazz Sonata with wrists and arms intact. And compared to the First concerto’s premiere recording featuring pianist Michael Rische with Christoph Poppen and the Bamberg Symphony, Becker’s added rhythmic alacrity joined with the more innately “swinging” NDR Radiophilharmonie under Eiji Oue pays sharper dividends. Incidentally, the Jazz Symphony is played in its shorter 1955 revision (as is the harder-edged performance with H. K. Gruber leading the Ensemble Modern on RCA), as opposed to the slightly longer 1925 score recorded for RCA by Michael Tilson-Thomas and the New World Symphony. Needless to say, this is a must for Antheil acolytes.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: This one

GEORGE ANTHEIL - Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; A Jazz Symphony; Jazz Sonata; Can-Can; Sonatina; Death of machines; Little Shimmy

  • CPO - 7.61204E+11
  • CD

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