Prelude;Three Studies; Blues.
3 Sonatas & 2 Sonatinas.
ECM New Series 1726 465
Herbert Henck has a number of carefully programmed CDs for this
enterprising label, all of which are well worth exploring. This latest release
juxtaposes two important figures in American music history of (fairly) recent
times. There is often a time-lag between innovation and its general acceptance
George Antheil (1900-1959) became notorious and found it hard to be
taken seriously in USA after the failure of his Ballet Méchanique
in New York. He was a man of many parts and a very considerable writer, with
an excellent and entertaining autobiography, 'The Bad Boy of Music'.
His piano music, with which he toured, brought him to public notice and caused
a major riot in Paris. He was rated the loudest pianist ever to play at Wigmore
Hall in London. This is a good selection of it, and shows his instinct for
rhythm and interest in jazz. Several of the titles allude to machines.
Sonata Sauvage which ends 'xylophonic prestissimo'.
There is a Sonatina for radio, and one called The Aeroplane,
begins 'as fast as possible' Antheil's Jazz Sonata is marked at one
point 'like a player piano'.
Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997) is best known for his dazzling studies
for the player piano, which extend rhythmic complexity to the ultimate. There
are a few early pieces for piano composed in the 1930s and included here
- it was the finding that their enormous rhythmic demands proved insuperable
to pianists of the day which led to his exploration of a medium to express
his ideas, and to a life of isolation and exile in which he laboriously punched
out his music on paper rolls. Only in his last years did he enjoy international
fame and his Studies for Player Piano latterly attained cult status.
Herbert Henck supplies his own readable essay on the piano music of
both composers and the ECM production is characteristic of their care and
individuality. The cover picture is unwittingly prophetic of our sad rural
times, with a sad looking solitary cow! Recommended, despite short measure
at under 40 mins.
Peter Grahame Woolf