Antheil’s Second Sonata for Violin and Piano
Let out your inner rock star
I originally studied and first performed this work by the American avant-garde composer George Antheil (1900–59) more than ten years ago. Since then, I have recorded it (with pianist John Novacek for Azica Records) and have been performing it recently.
The form of this sonata for violin and piano is extraordinarily “out of the box,” particularly for 1923! Everything—from the wild swings in musical content to ideas that never quite finish themselves to the completely over-the-top cadenza and the quiet tango with the pianist switching to drums at the end—is revolutionary. The best way I have found to describe it is to use the analogy of channel-surfing—it really is like sitting down with a remote control and changing the channel every few seconds.
I love the entire set of Antheil’s sonatas and find them sadly underplayed and underexposed. This might change (I hope) as I find there to be more and more daring violin players on the scene these days. Antheil often had a particular violinist in mind when writing for the violin—Olga Rudge, whom he described as “adrenal.” She, along with poet Ezra Pound, who was a fan of Antheil’s, commissioned Sonata No. 2, as well as Sonata No. 1.
I am part of the generation of people that adored Schubert at the same time as Van Halen, so the hidden rock-star side of this particular violinist has a chance to show himself with these works.
One also has to be a bit of a comedian, a pantomime, an actor—all the things musicians are asked to be!
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