ANTHEIL: Capital of the World
DE BANFIELD: The Combat
Ballet Theatre Orch/Joseph Levine, cond.
EMI 66548 (M) (ADD) TT: 71:38
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This is a major release, offering on CD for the first time three fascinating ballets presented by Ballet Theatre, two of which are not available elsewhere. George Antheil's Capital of the World had its premiere December 3, 1953 on an Omnibus telecast (does a video exist?), after which there were a series of performances at the old Metropolitan Opera House. Around this time Capitol made this vivid monophonic recording which for many years was used for high fidelity display (Emory Cook was one of its advocates). The flamenco sequence (danced on this recording by Roy Fitzell), with its sizzling high frequency transients, is particularly effective for this purpose. For more information about Capitol of the World, see the review of the Centaur recording of the complete ballet which, unfortunately, does not include the flamenco dancing. This flamenco dancing episode is intended to be a part of the ballet, but it doesn't appear in Schirmer's published score, so there is justification for Centaur not including it - one can imagine how difficult it might be to find a flamenco dancer in Czechoslovakia! The Capital recording also differs from the Centaur recording as it begins with an introduction found only in the piano score.
William Schuman's Undertow is the story of the hero doomed to hate the women who most attract him, "like the confession of a neurotic to a psychiatrist." This 24-minute ballet was premiered in November of 1945. Italian coomposer Rafaello de Banfield wrote some exquisite music for The Combat, a tragic love story, an interlude from the epic poem about the Crusades by Italian Renaissance poet, Tasso. In this, two young people from warring factions fall in love, meeting later on the battlefield. As they are wearing masks they do not recognize each other; Clorinda is mortally wounded by her lover, Tancred. Banfield has written an extraordinary score for this ballet, with a love scene that approaches Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet in intensity. EMI states this was premiered by Ballet Theatre December 27, 1953, but this was the American premiere; the world premiere was in Paris in 1949 when it was known as Le Combat, and it was also given in 1950 under that name by the New York City Ballet. It was three years later that Ballet Theatre presented the work.
Performances of all three ballets are superb, with wide-range, satisfying monophonic sound. Yes, it is unfortunate that the recordings are not stereo, but that's the way it is. This CD is part of Capitol's Full Dimensional Sound reissue series that makes available to today's collectors many of the recognized fine recordings of the pre-stereo era. Highly recommended! (NOTE: All of the FDS reissues have, unfortunately, been deleted as of 2002).