Antheil, Nancarrow

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Antheil,Nancarrow
WORKS: Airplane Sonata; Sonatina for Radio; Death of Machines; Jazz Sonata; Sonata sauvage; Mechanisms
PERFORMER: Herbert Henck (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 465 829-2
‘I am in all honesty bound to repeat my unshakeable conviction – the boy is a genius. Need I add that he has yet to write a work that shows it. If he keeps on exactly as he has started the sum total of all his genius will be nothing.’ Aaron Copland’s paradoxical 1926 judgement on his compatriot George Antheil is borne out by this selection of Antheil’s piano pieces, astonishingly original in their blend of machine-age Futurism, jazz-age rhythms, Stravinskian collage forms and Webernian brevity, brilliant in their keyboard writing, yet ultimately leaving the impression of a creative mind crowded with ideas but unable to find the right way of realising them. Perhaps accidentally, ECM has reinforced this impression by pairing them with two early works by Conlon Nancarrow, which share some of Antheil’s preoccupations – musical mechanisms, jazz rhythms, brevity – but make real, lasting music out of them. Herbert Henck’s performances are wonderfully clear and precise; the recording is immaculate: five stars for both, without question. But (especially in view of the playing time) the disc can be recommended only to listeners with a special interest in the composers, or those curious about the gap between compositional success and failure. Anthony Burton