Anglia Sinfonia performs where futuristic meets pianola

Published: 26 October 2010 at 11:24

Stunningly contemporary performance will combine classic twentieth-century works with newly-composed music.

Ayayay Concerto – Julio d’Escriván

Grand Pianola Music – John Adams

Ballet Mécanique – George Antheil

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the publication of The Futurist Manifesto, Anglia Sinfonia, under the direction of its founder and conductor, Paul Jackson, will present an evening of Futurist-inspired music as part of the Cambridge Music Festival 2009 on 22 November at West Road Concert Hall.

Celebrating mechanisms of the old and technologies of the new, the concert includes John Adams sparkling and immense Grand Pianola Music, for two pianos, chamber orchestra and voices; and Julio d’Escriván’s newly-composed Ayayay Concerto for iPhone, Pianola and Orchestra, in which the composer will act as soloist.

Speaking about his ground-breaking concerto, Julio d’Escriván comments:

"This music is most definitely for people with open minds who want to explore new music technology and see how it contrasts and works with music from the past. The work I have created examines two musical computing devices  – the ubiquitous iPhone and the nineteenth-century pianola – at extreme points in the technology continuum.  It is framed within the ‘evolution’ theme of the Cambridge Music Festival, as part of the celebrations of the Darwin year."

Antheil’s best-known composition is Ballet Mécanique (1924). The “ballet” was about 30 minutes long, originally conceived as the musical accompaniment to the film of the same name by Dudley Murphy and Fernand Léger. Eventually the film makers and composers chose to let their creations evolve separately, although the film credits still included Antheil. Nevertheless, Ballet Mécanique premiered as concert music in Paris in 1926. The onstage airplane propeller blew off toupees and hats, which caused some scuffles, but critics produced positive reviews anyway. Antheil became known as the “bad boy of music.”

Antheil took Ballet Mécanique to Carnegie Hall in New York the following year. The Americans seemed less enthusiastic: they expressed mild amusement, but they would not accept Antheil as a “serious” composer. Antheil remained in France as a Guggenheim scholar for a few more years, during which time he wrote his opera Transatlantic, but the Depression brought him back to the US in 1932. He went to Hollywood in 1936 and became an established film composer. He led a relatively tame career after that.As ‘hard and beautiful as a diamond’, George Antheil’s Ballet Mécanique, brings together  the forces of a pianola, two pianos, multiple percussion, electric bells, sirens and airplane propellers. Performed in the original version with the world-renowned pianola virtuoso, Rex Lawson, this infamous piece provides a dynamic finale to the concert.

Anglia Sinfonia is the contemporary music of Anglia Ruskin University, and combines performances of classic twentieth-century works with newly-composed and commissioned music.

In a free event for ticket holders to the main concert, Rex Lawson will be also revealing the secrets of the pianola in a pre-concert talk at 7.15pm, at West Road Concert Hall.

Concert tickets are available from the Corn Exchange Box Office: £10 (£7 concessions; £5 student standby).  Advance tickets can be booked by contacting 01223 357851, and tickets will also be available on the door.