As well as being a superb technician, the pianist Herbert Henck always puts together his discs with great thoughtfulness. This brilliantly executed programme of the renegade American composers Conlon Nancarrow and George Antheil may seem an unlikely juxtaposition, but it makes musical sense. ... The sources of Nancarrow’s inspirations are clear – the rhythmic energy and the syncopation come from jazz, while the clarity and the contrapuntal ingenuity stem from neoclassicism in general and Stravinsky in particular. Jazz and Stravinsky had also been the main inspirations of Antheil’s music more than a decade earlier, when this self-styled “bad boy of music” left the US (in 1922) to live in Europe for 11 years, touring as a pianist and scandalising his audiences with his own provocative compositions. At a recital in Paris in 1923, he played his Airplane Sonata, Sonata Sauvage and Mechanisms (all three included here by Henck, alongside the Jazz Sonata, and the Sonatina, of the same vintage, and the Sonatina for radio written six years later). ... The music is still immensely attractive, full of vigour and harmonic daring – some untethered harmonies anticipate the more abandoned moments of Messiaen, other insouciant tunes sound like close cousins of the music of the Parisian Les Six, and yet other works are entirely rhythmic. ... As far as I know, the two composers never met, but had they done so, they would have found they had a lot in common, as Henck so lucidly demonstrates. (Andrew Clements, The Guardian)


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