When George Antheil and his future wife, Boski Markus, arrived in Paris in the summer of 1923 they moved into a small apartment on rue de l’Odéon above Sylvia Beach’s famous bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. The musicians, artists, and literary giants who comprised the shop’s clientele steered Antheil toward his calling as the ‘Bad Boy of Music’.
For us, Odéon represents our artistic path together, beginning with Antheil’s wild early music and sustained through a mutual love for collaboration, experimentation, and discovery. We met during our first year as doctoral students at Arizona State University, developing a natural collaborative energy when Hannah began writing her dissertation on Antheil’s three Parisian violin sonatas.
Over the course of six months, we discovered the very limits of our technical and musical skill as we worked through each piece. We thrived on the raw energy and driving aggression of Antheil’s early sonatas, finding beauty in their vivacity and quirky athleticism’
With these three pieces, we have come to a deeper understanding of the collaboration and friendship between two incredible musicians. Our own friendship and musical partnership have flourished as a result. We hope you enjoy Specter as much as we loved creating it for you.
– Duo Odéon.
Total time: 01:01:53
Merging Technologies Horus
Collin J. Rae
Merging Technologies Hapi
|Original Recording Format|
Sono Luminus Studios, Boyce, Virginia July 31-August 4, 2017
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
Legacy Audio speakers
|Release Date||June 26, 2018|
This intriguing album charts the friendship between violinist Werner Gebauer and George Antheil in the shape of the two works that Antheil wrote for him – the Violin Sonatina and the Concerto. A photograph reproduced in the booklet shows the young Gebauer, nattily dressed, the stem of a pipe in his mouth, with a protective arm around the solid figure of Antheil. Clearly Gebauer inspired the composer for him to have written two such works in such close proximity.
The 1945 Sonatina is a vividly attractive work. If you’ve only been reared on the Bad Boy of Shakespeare and Co, window climbing and snook-cocking, I’d suggest you recalibrate your musical horizons rather more firmly on Hollywood. There’s a positively Korngoldian opulence to some of Antheil’s writing, the second subject of the opening movement almost ludicrously sweet, whereas some of the faster writing shimmers with vivid memories of his Parisian days. The luscious romanticism of the central movement, gently undulating, shows no let-up and the hoe-down elements of the finale suggest a rollicking cowboy stage, a kind of Robert Russell Bennett meets Prokofiev mélange. If you like avant garde, don’t bother, but if you fancy being intrigued and entertained in equal measure give this a real listen. Yes, the recorded sound is rather dry and the nature of the music warrants more generous cushioning of sound but the Duo Odéon do their considerable best.
The Concerto is necessarily heard in piano reduction here and dates from the following year. This is valuable because in his 1947 première performance with Antal Doráti, Gebauer altered some elements of the solo line and a number of sizeable cuts were made. Here the original manuscript was consulted and largely followed though it seems that the premiere was recorded and the album of it was also used as a basis for this piano reduction. In this work Antheil uses rather more of his earlier material – there are some acerbic harmonies and solo discursions – shaped into what one could best describe as the curdled lyricism of the first movement. Here rhythmic instability plays its part but in the long central movement it’s long-breathed lyricism that takes centre-stage, alongside Prokofiev-like mocking writing in the second subject. For the finale Antheil unveils syncopation and Latino verve, as indeed he does some not-so-surreptitious romanticism, in music of delectable caprice and wit. Yes, it’s a relatively long work given the material – which accounts for the premiere cuts – but I think it justifies its length.
The three brief Valses are drawn from film music Antheil wrote for Ben Hecht’s Specter of the Rose and are heard in Gebauer’s arrangements. The most vitalising is the central one, a Poco allegretto that perhaps shows the influence of the Czech violinist Váša Príhoda’s arrangement of Rosenkavalier Waltzes.
Heard without preconceptions, this ‘Hollywood-era’ Antheil has much to offer. The performances are splendidly committed, and a lot of hard work has gone into the preparation of the score of the concerto. Hannah Leland and Aimee Fincher can be warmly commended on their exploration.
Specter is a good collection of Antheil’s music, played with passion and precision.
George Antheil (1900-1959) was an American composer — born in Trenton, New Jersey — who began his professional career in Europe, where he was friends with, among many others, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Ernest Hemingway, Eric Satie, and Igor Stravinsky. Antheil wrote over 300 musical works – symphonies, chamber works, film music, and operas.
This album gives us a collection of Antheil’s chamber music, performed by two of Antheil’s greatest supporters, the Duo Odeon, violinist Hannah Leland and pianist Aimee Fincher. They formed Duo Odeon in 2014 during their doctoral studies at Arizona State University. They also champion other contemporary composers to give them a wider audience.
Although all the pieces on the album are quite interesting, I was absorbed by Valses from Specter of the Rose, an arrangement of music from Antheil’s 1947 film score for Specter of the Rose.
The recording is an intimate one for all three works, with a hint of room ambiance. Most of the music is centered between the front speakers. I listened in stereo and in faux surround sound with an expanded sound stage provided by Dolby Pro Logic.
I applaud the focus on Antheil’s music, which is simply not heard widely enough.
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