ANTHEIL: Capital of the World. Fifth Symphony "Joyous." Archipelago.
Slovak State Philharmonic Orch/Barry Kolman, cond.
Centaur 2293 (F) (DDD) TT: 61:27

George Antheil, self-styled "Bad Boy of Music," (the title of his autobiography), had a remarkable career. A superb pianist, he toured Europe in the early '20s as an avant garde pianist/composer, moving to Hollywood in 1936 where he provided music for many films, wrote an advice-to-the-lovelorn column and, with actress Hedy Lamarr, invented and patented a radio torpedo device. For a study of glandular disturbances in criminals, the Paris Police Force made him an honorary officer.

Antheil's ballet The Capital of the World is based on a short story by his longtime friend, Ernest Hemingway. It was premiered December 3, 1953 by Ballet Theatre on an Omnibus telcast and remained in BT's repertory for some years. Capitol Records, just prior to the advent of stereo, made a mono recording (see adjoining review), but now we have a stereo recording of this major work by a distinctive American composer. The Capitol recording was reissued on CD, then discontinued, then reissued via ArkivMusik—and now has been reissued on EMI. For more details, read the REVIEW.

Capitol of the World is the story of the young Spanish boy, Paco, who wants to become a matador, goes to "the capital of the world," Madrid, only to find that most bullfighters are not the heroes he imagined them to be, and he also learns about women. A disillusioned matador challenges the untested young torero to a fight with an artificial "bull"--a chair with knives tied to the legs, and the boy is killed.

Centaur's new recording has the advantage of completeness, including six minutes of music not included in the earlier recording. But, unfortunately, it does not include sounds of the flamenco dancer, so vividly effective on the Capitol recording. The Slovak Philharmonic here is in top form, other than a few moments of tentative brass playing, and American conductor Barry Kolman seems very much attuned to the music's Spanish idiom.

Eugene Ormandy commissioned the Symphony No. 5, composed in 1947-48 and premiered by him and the Philadelphia Orchestra on New Year's Eve 1948. This three-movement, 24-minute work is, like most of Antheil's music, aggressively dissonant and propulsive, with a final movement Virgil Thomson called, "calisthenic, invigorating and..sound boogie-woogie practice." The final work on this CD was composed in 1933--the third movement of Antheil's Symphony No. 2. Entitled Archipelago, it is a brash, blasting treatment of the rumba rhythm.

Centaur's sound is superb, if a bit dry. Recommended!

R.E.B. (Sept. 1999)