February 2005

George Antheil - Symphony No. 3; Capital of the World, Tom Sawyer; Hot-Time Dance; McKonkey’s Ferry
Frankfurt Radio Symphony; Hugh Wolff, conductor
CPO 777 040-2
Format: CD
Released: 2004

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

George Antheil is usually considered one of the bad boys among American composers. His was a personality that, despite numerous possibilities to the contrary, was determined to make it big -- to become "a noted and notorious…new ultra-modernist pianist composer." It was in main part due to this trait that he achieved much of his success.

A musically talented boy, he received composition lessons at the age of six, and, as a teenager, one of his pieces was brought to the attention of composer Ernest Bloch. He eventually came under the patronage of Mary Louise Curtis Bok, founder of the famed Curtis Institute, though Antheil did all he could to undermine her confidence -- and financial support.

Antheil's Symphony No. 3 was written when he was in his late 30s, and it offers a look at those composers whose influence would remain in his music throughout his career. I hear Aaron Copland, Ernest Bloch and some of Samuel Barber. But mostly, I hear America, in all her length, width and depth. CPO fills out this nice-sounding CD with Antheil’s Tom Sawyer, Hot-Time Dance, McKonkey's Ferry, and Capital of the World, which, while not as interesting as Symphony No. 3, are wonderful in their own right as a pastiche of Americana.

If you hold even the smallest interest in American composers, don’t pass up the chance to hear George Antheil. You may find that he succeeded in his goals.