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George Carl Johann Antheil (Trenton, New Jersey, July 8, 1900 – New York, February 12, 1959) was an American pianist and composer.
Son of William and Wilhelmine Antheil, owners of a small shoe store, start studying composition at the age of 16 with Constantin von Sternberg, a pupil of Liszt, and then with Ernest Bloch, before his lack of resources Force to look in 1921, a patron in Philadelphia. Already under the protection of the wife of Edward Bok, who in 1924 had founded the Curtis Institute of Music, Antheil prepares a tour of Europe as a pianist and composer.
Transfer to Paris
In 1923, he settled in Paris where he met, among others, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, Man Ray, Fernand Léger, Satie, Pablo Picasso … On October 4, 1924, he premiered his music , which can fit into the musical avant-garde of the 20s before the public in Paris, getting then the reputation of being an enfant terrible.
You can be considered a member of the given movement. In that line 1926 creates the work summit, and also the most provocative of his career: Mechanical Ballet. The work stands out for its orchestration of pianos, percussions, electric bells and airplane propellers. This ballet is also the zenith of Antheil’s interest in futurism.
However, he will soon change his interests towards the neoclassicism of his Piano Concerto, work of 1927. That same year, the failure of his montage of the American version of the Ballet depletes the financial resources of Antheil and unbalances him emotionally. This failure will affect his reputation in the United States until 1940.
Return to the United States
He patented, together with the actress Hedy Lamarr, an initial version of a frequency-hop communications system. Despite the enthusiastic reception of his opera Transatlantic in Frankfurt in 1930, the international monetary crisis forces Antheil to return to the United States, where he associates with populist artists, and composes works for theater and cinema in New York. To survive, he is also forced to work as a journalist and even as a correspondent during World War II.
It is set in Hollywood, at which time Antheil saw a rebirth of his music, and then composes his best known work, the Fourth Symphony in 1942.
He then manages to reconcile his work as a “serious” composer with film music, which provided him with more money. Composed for the cinema the soundtrack of The Plainsman and the Lady (1946), The Spectrum of the Rose (1946), McKonkey’s Ferry (1948), We were unknown (1949), Knock at any door (1949), In a lonely place (1950) House by the River (1950) and Pride and passion (1957), among others. In the field of symphonic music, the Violin Concerto (1946), the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies (1947-1948) (the latter inspired by Eugène Delacroix’s famous painting La libertad guiando el pueblo y en la appreciates the influence of Sergéi Prokófiev), Sonata n ° 4 for violin (1948), the Sonatas for piano n ° 3 and 4 (1947-1948) and Tom Sawyer (1949).
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