Antheil, George. (1900-1959)
Five Typed Letters Signed to Raymond Lewenthal
An interesting group of five typed letters signed from the avant-garde composer to American pianist Raymond Lewenthal, dating from June 1949 to January 1950 and concerning several of Antheil's later compositions, in particular his Fourth Sonata. Complete details below. Some light toning, but overall very fine. 7.25 x 10.5 inches and 8.5 x 11 inches. Rare.
June 1, 1949; 1 p. Antheil apologizes for not being able to send Lewenthal his Third Sonata or the Toccatas, but is "sending you only the Fourth Sonata, which I hope and pray you will like well enough to program upon your Town Hall recital. I will say this in behalf of the Fourth Sonata; it is the more effective of the two piano sonatas of recent date. Dr. Heinsheimer of Schirmers said that upon the Fredrick Marvin concert it was positively the work which the public cheered loudest; and that he personally found it most thrilling. Also, inasmuch as Virgil Thomson has publicly asserted that it is a fine sonata, and that many pianists should add it to their repetoire [sic], and also because since then I dedicated it to him, he will very likely review your concert from beginning to end; in fact I will write my friend and ask him to do so, should you program the work." Antheil goes on to explain that another pianist is going to premiere the Third Sonata, and that [Claudio] Arrau will premiere Antheil's Toccatas.
June 21, 1949; 1 p. Antheil promises that "I will certainly do my best to have Virgil [Thomson] review the concert," and that "I shall, as you say, send the Toccatas anyway." He goes on to say that "I don't think the piano concerto will be finished much before August. A number of new, and all-important 'serious music' commissions have come in, amongst them an oratorio for the State of California, which simply claim precedence."
October 19, 1949; 1 p. Antheil expresses concern that a letter of September 25 may have gone missing, as well as a telegram to Lewenthal on the occasion of his Town Hall concert: "I have been restlessly awaiting news of this concert performance of my Fourth Sonata, your own impressions plus, if possible, several critiques if you had them to spare. [...] In the meantime there is a great possibility that we might, here, want to record the Fourth Piano Sonata commercially, and for a good company. Would you be interested in doing so?"
November 10, 1949; 1 p. Antheil thanks Lewenthal for sending recordings: "They are magnificent—although I do feel that the third movement was played a mite too slow—perhaps, by the time you played it at your concert, you had arrived at the faster tempo? We played them, side by side, with the records of the same sonata which Fredrick Marvin played. [...] Yours, in many respects, is the most musical, and the nearest to my own indications." He mentions that he will recommend Lewenthal to the head of Columbia Masterworks and expresses his regret that Virgil Thomson did not in fact attend the concert.
January 26, 1950; 1 p. Antheil reports that he has composed "two new orchestral works, one for the L.A. Chamber Symphony Orchestra, a new 'Serenade' which will be premiered here in February and another commissioned work for the 70th anniversary of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, to be premiered in March. In December I started on a new moving picture score, the recording of which we have finished just about a week ago [...] I have also been in Denver for a wonderful performance of my 'McKonke's Ferry' overture during December. [...] My 6th Symphony will be played in New York during February and I am planning to come East for a few weeks. [...] I plan to be there around the middle of February and hope that you will be in town then and we can discuss the piano concerto, in which I am very interested an have already started on sketches for it."
George Antheil was an American avant-garde composer, pianist, author, and inventor whose modernist musical compositions explored the modern sounds – musical, industrial, and mechanical – of the early 20th century. Spending much of the 1920's in Europe, Antheil returned to the US in the 1930's, and thereafter spent much of his time composing music for films, and eventually, television. Besides writing scores for movies, he continued to compose other music, including for ballet and six symphonies; his later works were in a more romantic style and influenced by Prokofiev and Shostakovich, as well as American music including jazz. Works such as Piano Sonata No. 4, written in 1948, showed a self-described desire "to disassociate myself from the passé modern schools of the last half-century, and to create a music for myself and those around me which has no fear of developed melody, real development itself, tonality, or other understandable forms."
Raymond Lewenthal (1923–1988) was an American pianist. Lewenthal made his debut in 1948 with Dimitri Mitropoulos and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The occasion marked the first time a soloist had been invited to play Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 under Mitropoulos's direction—that being a work which the conductor was famous for playing himself. The success of this performance was followed a few weeks later by Lewenthal's New York recital debut. These events launched his North American career, which flourished until it came to a sudden halt in 1953; while walking through New York's Central Park, Lewenthal was attacked by a gang of hoodlums and suffered broken bones in his hands and arms. Although he did recover and return to performing, with a particular focus on the works of lesser-known Romantic composers, his career never quite lived up to the promise of his debut.