George Antheil Symphonies Channel Copland

Before I received a copy of this release, I only knew George Antheil through one work: the Ballet Mechanique. But Antheil was about more than scoring sirens and airplane propellors.

Antheil’s Symphony No. 3 paints a series of evocative tableaux; Latino California, Creole New Orleans, Promontory Point, Baltimore.

In this 1940s work, Antheil uses the language of Aaron Copland. Some parts reminded me strongly of El Salon Mexico. The symphony does sound American. But at times it’s a Hollywood version of America which to me, shows its age.

The Symphony No. 6 “After Delacroix” was premiered in 1949. The first movement was inspired by Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People. It’s a work full of bombast, and a touch of Hollywood braggadocio.

Still, it’s an exciting, accessible work, with its own internal logic.

The release also includes a few short orchestral bonbons. The “Hot-Time Dance “is sort of mashup of “There’ll be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight” and the Saber Dance. It was written for the Boston Pops and as such is just a fun piece of music to enjoy.

John Storgårds leads the BBC Philharmonic in finely crafted performances. The symphonies are rendered with energy and precision. And the short pieces — like “Hot-Time Dance” are delivered with just the right character.

If you enjoy mid-century American music, investigate these works. Today, George Antheil may be overshadowed by Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber. But his music is worth a listen. And perhaps a re-evaluation.

George Antheil: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 6
BBC Philharmonic; John Storgårds, conductor
Chandos 10982

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