Biography

George Antheil, the self-described “bad boy of music,” made a splash wherever he went. Before his better known contemporaries George Gershwin and Darius Milhaud followed suit, Antheil incorporated the sounds and styles of jazz into classical music as early as 1922 with his first symphony “Zingaresca.” That year, Antheil announced that jazz was “one of the greatest artistic landmarks of modern art.” Antheil’s A Jazz Symphony, which premiered at the composer’s 1927 Carnegie Hall debut, is a crazy-quilt pastiche of Tin Pan Alley, Afro-Cuban jazz,
evocative solos (for piano, trumpet and clarinet, in particular) and dissonant chord clusters.
Rhythmically, A Jazz Symphony features rapid-fire changes in time signatures, abrupt tempo shifts and an ever-present snare drum, which drives the music relentlessly forward. Although the audience at the premiere gave A Jazz Symphony an ovation, it was completely overshadowed by Antheil’s avant-garde Ballet Mécanique, which almost triggered a riot during the concert (or a succès de scandale, depending on your point of view).

Discography

George Antheil, Walter Piston, Aaron Copland - Spirit of the American Range

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