|George Antheil's Ballet Mécanique, a wild, highly rhythmic composition combining industrial age sounds and jazz, is one of the most notorious musical moments of the 20th century.
Antheil was an American composer living in Paris in the 1920s. He composed the first version of Ballet Mécanique in 1924 for 4 player pianos, then almost immediately expanded the instrumentation to 3 xylophones, 4 bass drums, tamtam, 2 pianos, siren, 3 airplane propellors, 7 bells, and 16 synchronized player pianos. He revised it again for performances in Paris in 1926 and New York in 1927. Following the New York performance, so badly received that it almost ruined his career, he visited Berlin, then went to Hollywood where he pursued a career as film composer. He revised the work again in 1953, and that version, more practical than earlier versions, has been performed several times.
The expanded 1924 version, however, was never performed until its premiere, produced by Paul Lehrman, at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell in November 1999. And this CD, a recording of that performance, is a major event!
Also on the CD: John Cage and Lou Harrison's 'Double Music' (1941), for percussion quartet; Richard Grayson's 'Shoot the Piano Player' (1995), for player piano and electronics, and 'Mister 528' (1996), for multiple player pianos and electronics; Amadeo Roldán's 'Ritmica No. 5' (1930) and 'Ritmica No. 6' (1930), for percussion ensemble; and Felix Mendelssohn's 'Saltarello-Presto from Symphony No. 4', arranged by Paul Lehrman for 16 player pianos.