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Antheil: Ballet Mecanique

George Antheil , Daniel Spalding , Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra Audio CD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

Price: $11.36 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
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MP3 Music, 8 Songs, 2001 $7.12  
Audio CD, 2001 $11.36  

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
listen  1. Ballet mecanique : Ballet Mecanique16:06$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  2. Serenade, No. 1: I Allegro 3:33$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  3. Serenade, No. 1: II Andante molto 7:35$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  4. Serenade, No. 1: III Vivo 4:34$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  5. Symphony for 5 Instruments (second version): I Allegro 5:05$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  6. Symphony for 5 Instruments (second version): II Lento 4:19$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  7. Symphony for 5 Instruments (second version): III Presto 2:30$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  8. Concerto for Chamber Orchestra15:37$0.89  Buy MP3 

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Antheil: Ballet Mecanique + Bad Boy of Music
Price for both: $29.33

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Product Details

  • Performer: Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra
  • Conductor: Daniel Spalding
  • Composer: George Antheil
  • Audio CD (September 18, 2001)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos American
  • ASIN: B00005NCYE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #216,690 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews

George Antheil's reputation as the Bad Boy of Music (the title of his fascinating autobiography) was earned largely with his Ballet Mécanique, written to accompany an abstract silent film by the artist Fernand Leger. It was composed for player pianos and percussion, with harsh, driving rhythms, and it caused the kind of riots in Paris that were useful to a composer's reputation. Today, that reputation may keep Antheil from being taken seriously. But when you hear the Ballet (as rescored in 1953 for an early mono recording) today, it's a substantial and exciting piece of music, formally tight and not at all hard on 21st century ears. The remainder of this program shows more of Antheil's range. The Serenade is a lovely piece of Americana, with a particularly touching slow movement. The Symphony and Concert owe much to Stravinsky's "neoclassical" style; both hold up very well. Spalding drives the Ballet hard, and it sounds more frenetic than that old mono recording, but the music can take the heat. This and the remaining performances are splendidly played by the excellent chamber orchestra, and the recording is clear, well-balanced, and realistic in sound. Another Naxos winner. --Leslie Gerber

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bad Boy and the Bad Boy Tamed November 29, 2001
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
The main problem with the early works of George Antheil, self-styled "Bad Boy of Music," is also its chief virtue: It's derivative of Igor Stravinsky. But then if you're going to slavishly follow a model, you probably couldn't choose a better one. In the Ballet Mechanique, Antheil's most famous work, you'll hear the percussion effects of "The Rite of Spring," "L'histoire," and especially "Les Noces." But you'll also note that the contours of the melodic snippets played by the tuneable percussion are Stravinskian as well, sounding like the Russian folk melodies that give "Les Noces" such impetus.
To be fair to Antheil, his music has its own merits, for one thing being entirely trusted to the percussion and an eccentic mix of instruments at that, including airplane propellers and electric bells among the more standard piano, drums, glockenspiel, xylophones, and such. It does create a uniquely extravagant and arresting sound. And then the music's multirhythms and off-rhythms give it the enlivening thrust that so many of this century's percussion extravaganzas lack. Overall, an interesting and appealing piece.
The "Symphony for Five Instruments" and "Concert Music for Chamber Orchestra" recall the neoclassical Stravinsky of the "Octet" and "Symphonies for Wind Instruments," but the quirky instrumentation of Antheil's symphony, with the prominence given to the sometimes clownish antics of the trumpet, abetted by the trombone, recall (or anticipate) Poulenc as well. Playful and enjoyable stuff despite its obvious hommage to Stravinsky. The "Concert" is more sullen and sober-sided and so is a bit more facelessly neoclassical.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio CD
Entertained by the weird, wacky and eclectic sounds of Frank Zappa, especially the orchestral Uncle Meat and King Kong, I subsequently learnt that his favourite composer was Edgard Varèse, famous for composing a symphony for percussion only (as well as being one of the earliest pioneers of electronic music). This struck me as such a ridiculous idea that I knew I just had to check it out (if Zappa liked it, then hell, I might too). Fortunately I had a friend with the expertise to initiate me into this intimidating foreign musical domain. And so my introduction to the wonders of twentieth century classical composition began. Stravinsky's Rite of Spring became an instant favourite, and Bartok's work soon after, followed by the scary sounds of Penderecki and Ligeti (remember those spine-chilling chorals in Kubrick's 2001?) It all made sense since I had already admired Bernard Hermann's Psycho, and discovered minimalists like Steve Reich and Philip Glass- the history was coming together from both ends.

So what about George Antheil (1900-1959)? Well, here we have a most unusually talented character. Besides work as a composer and pianist, he also mastered other disciplines and interests, writing on criminal justice, military history, and the explanatory role of endocrinology for criminal investigations, as well as patenting a torpedo guidance system and, with the actress Hedy Lamarr, a broad spectrum signal transmission system!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine illustration of George Antheil's art August 12, 2008
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
George Antheil styled himself as the "Bad Boy of Music." As one listens to this CD, one is not so sure why people might have said that. He clearly was a capable composer and his music is worth listening to.

The CD is titled after one of his better known works, "Ballet Mecanique." This and the other works on this CD are played nicely by the Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Daniel Spalding.

The "Ballet Mecanique" was first performed in France in 1926, reputedly to good reviews. As the liner notes put it, "Notorious for its orchestra of pianos, percussion, electric buzzers, and aeroplane propellers, 'Ballet' was a summation of Antheil's involvement with futurism."

What of the "Ballet"> It is a very energetic piece, a dynamic work. It is easy to listen to and enjoy. It does use strange instruments (such as buzzers and propellers) and stranger combinations of instruments; one critic referred to this work as an example of "demented modernism."

Still, the energy of this piece is infectious. One can see this as in the tradition of Stravinsky (note what other reviewers say). Piano and percussion add an interesting element to the whole of the composition.

The middle segment becomes quieter, even contemplative. Then, the energy returns for a dramatic close. It's a bit different. I tend not to enjoy more experimental music, but this surely works for me!

Also on this CD are some of his other signature pieces, such as "Serenade for String Orchestra," "Symphony for Five Instruments," and "Concert for Chamber Orchestra."

Overall, I think that this is worth a listen, exposing the listener to one of America's more intriguing composers of the early part of the century.
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