Classical CD Review
Bad boy, bad boy. Whatcha gonna do? During the Twenties, George Antheil flared across the musical sky of Paris with a series of brilliant, highly experimental works like the Ballet mécanique and the "Airplane" Sonata. Music critics and philosophers published important articles about him. Ezra Pound tapped him as his "musical advisor," and took part (on the drum) in a performance of Antheil's Violin Sonata No. 2. Aaron Copland wrote, memorably, that Antheil "had Paris by the ear." Not too shabby for a boy from New Jersey. By the end of the decade, however, Antheil's star had dimmed. He had a restless mind and had begun what would be a lifelong journey to find another style. He felt the influences of Stravinsky and, later, Shostakovich. But Paris wanted more shock, and in the United States, to which he had returned, his radical works were held against him. He became known as the "airplane-propeller man," as if Ballet mécanique were the only thing he had written. The Piano Concerto No. 2 of 1926 is Antheil's first big work after the radical period. Here, one feels the powerful and obvious influence of Stravinsky's 1923 Concerto for Piano and Winds. It has the gravitas of the Stravinsky, without the thickness, and it's chock-full of great ideas, provocative takes on Bach's keyboard music that, Stravinsky aside, are at least ten years ahead of their time. In the Serenade No. 2, the thematic economy we saw in the piano concerto comes across as even tighter.
Aside from his legendary Ballet mécanique, which still gets played as a kind of souvenir of the madcap 1920s, George Antheil's concert music has mostly fallen into obscurity. In spite of his reputation as an enfant terrible who hobnobbed with the leading lights of the avant-garde, his works attract less attention than the details of his life. Yet this state of affairs might be reversed if this delightful release from CPO gets proper distribution, for the pieces presented here are worth hearing in their own right, …….Blair Sanderson @ AllMusic
As Joseph Fennimore writes in his notes for this very well documented CD, "Ms. Verbit is the first pianist to have undertaken the Olympian task of deciphering and recording these early pieces of Antheil. She uniquely has the requisite tenacity, skill and resources for the task. Dedication is the word. Her researches have been thorough, her relationship with Antheil becoming deeply personal even though they never met. Everything about him that could be known, she has learnt. When she refers to Antheil as "George," one has the feeling he asked her to call him that."