George Antheil – Jazz Symphony

June 7, 2014

GreggaryPeccary·291 videos

A light-hearted ditty, for a change

Written in 1925, it was premiered at his infamous 1927 Carnegie Hall Concert which also debuted the Succès de scandale Ballet Mécanique. It was originally intended to be used in Paul Whiteman’s Experiment in Modern Music (which famously premiered George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue) concerts, but was deemed too radical. Scored for a massive instrumentation of 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, various percussion, 2 banjos, 3 pianos (including one soloist), and full string section.

For convenience, he reorchestrated the work in 1955 for a much more conservative ensemble, a version which also rids itself of the many dissonances and noises of the original.

It was performed by the Harlem Symphonietta conducted by W.C. Handy, and was complimented by the likes of Gershwin and Aaron Copland. Despite this critical success, it was overshadowed by the spectacle of the main work, Ballet Mécanique. The work can be seen with Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Darius Milhaud’s La Création du Monde as one of the first classical works with a successful and overt jazz influence. Furthermore, while Gershwin’s piece is more influenced by big band and swing, Milhaud’s and Antheil’s works can be seen as reinterpretations of the large freeness of Creole and New Orleans and cutting-edge New York jazz.

One Response to “George Antheil – Jazz Symphony”


  1. This is fun to listen to and would be great to dance to. If it hasn’t been made into one yet, I think it would make a great ballet.

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