Joseph Levine

George Antheil: Capital of the World; William Schuman: Undertow; Raffaello de Banfield: The Combat

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AllMusic Review by

EMI Classics' Antheil: Capital of the World is a midline FDS package combining George Antheil's ballet Capital of the World with William Schuman's Undertow and British-Italian composer Raffaello de Banfield's 1949 ballet The Combat. These were recorded in 1953 and 1954 by conductor Joseph Levine, who was at the time director of the American Ballet Theater, and this is the American Ballet Theater Orchestra, although credited merely to "Ballet Theater Orchestra" as the company did not yet have the "American" part of the name attached to it. For many years, this 1954 recording was the only one of Antheil's Capital of the World, a once highly popular ballet that aired on early television; in one form or another it was an in-print item in Capitol's LP catalog for many years. This bullfight-based ballet, with Antheil's able facility with Latin motifs at the back of it, is clearly populist in style and should not be confused with his futurist work of the 1920s. It still packs a punch, particularly the "Knife Dance" that concludes the work. Schuman's Undertow is a ballet written in 1944 for Anthony Tudor on a theme not revealed to the composer until the dress rehearsal; it is one of his purest scores and curiously (by June 2009) only one other recording has been made of it, an earlier effort from 1950 taken from an NBC Symphony broadcast led by Guido Cantelli. The Combat was the only score of the little-known Banfield to catch on, and it is quite dramatic, based on Torquato Tasso's epic poem of The Crusades, "La Gerusalemme liberata." It is in a predominantly post-romantic idiom with mildly modern touches and has a strongly Italian orientation despite its composer's English origin; it is also a little reminiscent of Miklós Rósza.

Despite being digitally remastered, the sound is not up to twenty first century standards; it's slightly scrawny and gritty, and ironically, updates in Capitol's "FDS" recording system made only a short time later -- not to mention the opening in 1955 of the famous Capitol tower, the first permanent facility for making orchestral recordings among others -- greatly improved the overall sound of Capitol's classical product not long after these recordings were made. However, these remain rare ballets on recordings and are well worth getting to know. Only the Antheil has been recorded again in modern sound, and the Levine interpretation remains a definitive performance of that work.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Capital of the World, ballet for orchestra, W. 249
1
6:09
2
11:59
3
7:49
Undertow, ballet (choreographic episodes)
4
2:38
5
2:19
6
1:59
7
2:02
8
2:18
9
2:31
10
1:14
11
1:27
12
1:29
13
1:54
14
1:39
15
2:43
The Combat, ballet for orchestra
16
4:02
17
3:55
18
2:40
19
1:42
20
1:22
21
1:00
22
1:18
23
4:36
24
0:41
blue highlight denotes track pick