Antheil: Symphony No. 3

Antheil: Symphony No. 3 "American"

by Hugh Wolff
     
 

Despite all the attempts to write the "Great American Symphony," it's dubious that such a holy grail was ever truly achieved. Roy Harris and Aaron Copland came closest (in their respective Third Symphonies), but another composer announced his candidacy with his own Third Symphony: George Antheil. This erstwhile "Bad Boy of Music" attempted to forge a career back home… See more details below

Overview

Despite all the attempts to write the "Great American Symphony," it's dubious that such a holy grail was ever truly achieved. Roy Harris and Aaron Copland came closest (in their respective Third Symphonies), but another composer announced his candidacy with his own Third Symphony: George Antheil. This erstwhile "Bad Boy of Music" attempted to forge a career back home in the United States after his heady European successes of the 1920s, and his Third Symphony (written in 1936-39 and subtitled the "American") has finally been revived in CPO's ongoing series devoted to the composer, with Hugh Wolff leading the Frankfurt Radio Symphony. It opens with the bustling, jazzy energy that's often associated with musical Americana, but the remaining movements seem more interested in bridging the gap between America and Europe: Folksy themes are juxtaposed with material borrowed -- more or less explicitly -- from Mahler and Sibelius, while the finale suggests a camaraderie with Shostakovich. It's an appealing score in many ways, yet it's overshadowed on this disc by the works that follow. Tom Sawyer (1949) and the Hot-Time Dance (1948) are sparkling and vital; either would make an irresistible curtain-raiser. A more ambitious work, McKonkey's Ferry (1948) -- named after the point where Washington crossed the Delaware -- invests its heroic subject matter with real drama, while the suite from Antheil's ballet Capital of the World (1953), based on an Ernest Hemingway short story set in Madrid, convincingly channels Spanish rhythms and moods into an exciting set of dances. Even more than his "American" Symphony, these pieces reveal Antheil as one of the most inventive and appealing American composers of his generation.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Uncle Dave Lewis
Here Hugh Wolff leads the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra in the third volume of a series surveying the orchestral music of George Antheil. It's hard to imagine how Wolff and his crew are going to be able to top this one, as it brings together some of the cream of this repertoire in flawless, sharply etched performances that are big-boned and relentlessly exciting. Antheil's "Symphony No. 3 American" is a great American symphony, easily qualified to take its place of honor alongside the "Third" symphonies of his contemporaries Roy Harris and Aaron Copland. By the end of the 1940s Antheil was the third most frequently performed American composer in concert halls after Copland and Samuel Barber, but this exalted reputation did not survive his early death in 1959. In listening to the "American Symphony" one wonders why not, as it has all of the necessary hallmarks; big city complexity, open prairie landscapes, memorable tunes, and nervous, incessant rhythms derived from jazz. Everyone who loves the "American vernacular" style of the 1940s should hear this work. Antheil's "Third" was premiered under conductor Hans Kindler in 1945, but this CPO disc represents its first appearance on any kind of issued recording. Likewise making their bow are two equally solid and enjoyable "vernacular" works, Antheil's delightful "Tom Sawyer Overture" and the rousing "Hot-Time Dance." Both "McKonkey's Ferry Overture" and "Capital of the World" have been recorded several times, but they have never sounded better as they do here. The only complaint here is about the notes by Eckhardt van den Hoogen. They are highly informative, but gossipy, and deal in great detail with aspects of Antheil's life that are not relevant to the music at hand. Perhaps van den Hoogen is afraid CPO will not be taking the series beyond this volume, and is trying to get in all the material he can, but most of it is more appropriate for a full-length biography of the composer and not a set of liner notes. Nonetheless, everything else about this CD is just simply great, and it should be your first choice for the orchestral music of George Antheil.
Gramophone - Peter Dickinson
[Antheil] is lucky to have a conductor of the calibre of Hugh Wolff taking up his cause.... The Third is more successful than commentators have suggested, but as attractive tableaux rather than a symphonic entity.

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Product Details

Release Date:
11/16/2004
Label:
Cpo Records
UPC:
0761203704026
catalogNumber:
777040
Rank:
193192

Tracks

  1. Symphony, for orchestra No. 3 ("American"), W. 174  - George Antheil  - Hugh Wolff  -  hr_Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra)  - Carsten Dufner  - Burkhard Schmilgun
  2. Tom Sawyer, overture for orchestra, W. 192  - George Antheil  - Hugh Wolff  -  hr_Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra)  - Carsten Dufner  - Burkhard Schmilgun
  3. American Dance Suite No. 1: Hot-Time Dance, for orchestra, W. 187  - George Antheil  - Hugh Wolff  -  hr_Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra)  - Carsten Dufner  - Burkhard Schmilgun
  4. McKonkey's Ferry (Washington at Trenton); A Concert Overture, for orchestra, W. 188  - George Antheil  - Hugh Wolff  -  hr_Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra)  - Carsten Dufner  - Burkhard Schmilgun
  5. The Capital of the World Suite (3), for orchestra, W. 198  - George Antheil  - Hugh Wolff  -  hr_Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra)  - Carsten Dufner  - Burkhard Schmilgun

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Hugh Wolff   Primary Artist

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