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Ronald E. Grames
Fanfare, January 2018

The wonder of these two discs is that Steffens, as he has done in the disparate previous releases, leads his western German forces in surprisingly idiomatic performances of pieces from both conductors in their varying and evolving styles. His reading of Antheil’s A Jazz Symphony, written the same year as Ballet mécanique, makes much of the circus of clashing styles and colors and has great fun with the Petrushka and Le sacre parodies, Milhaud references, and carousel waltz conclusion. In this, Steffens is nearly the equal of the energetic Tilson Thomas and even gives Gil Rose’s perceptive reading run for the prize. Steffens’s reading, with Frank Dupree, of the earlier Piano Concerto No. 1, with its own Stravinsky allusions and spur-of-the-moment stylistic clashes, is clearly superior to Eiji Oue’s with Marcus Becker. Neither it nor Oue’s recording of A Jazz Symphony on the same disc—using the 1955 revision—comes close to capturing the wildness or the chic of these works. Steffens highlights the Le Bœuf sur le toit connection of the lively, transitional (1933–35) rumba Archipelago, never underplaying its originality or charm, and he captures the Spanish flavor—with near quotes and allusions—and cinematic style of the suite from the 1953 ballet for CBS and the American Ballet Theatre, The Capital of the World. © 2018 Fanfare Read complete review



Allen Gimbel
American Record Guide, November 2017

This might be considered a supplement to the great ballet and the underrated symphonies. Performances are more than adequate. © 2017 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide



Peter J. Rabinowitz
Fanfare, November 2017

This disc is the latest in Steffens’s Modern Times series, and while there’s serious competition for all of these pieces, the performances on this CD are all first-rate, too. I especially enjoy the way Steffens interweaves the mechanical and the improvisatory aspects of A Jazz Symphony and the way he handles its non-transitions, especially the first arrival of the waltz. Dupree handles the concerto with aplomb—as he does the demanding first piano part of A Jazz Symphony. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review



Phillip Scott
Fanfare, November 2017

A Jazz Symphony was written in 1925, and premiered at Carnegie Hall in 1927. …Steffens and his Rhineland orchestra, in this new recording, give the music a noticeably Germanic edge.

Antheil’s Piano Concerto No. 1 was written shortly after the symphony, and proved to be a critical failure at its first performance. …Structurally, it is a stronger work than the symphony and a neat vehicle for the pianist to display his or her skills. …Steffens’s recording is very good. The orchestra is on firmer ground in terms of the idiom, and the sound, while reverberant, is crisp and clear. The primary asset is the decisive and authoritative piano playing of 25-year-old German pianist Frank Dupree, a resident artist with this orchestra.

The ballet Capital of the World comes from much later in the composer’s life. While retaining his qualities of cheekiness and felicitous invention, the short suite’s stylistic anonymity renders it more functional than memorable. …The piquant little waltz in the second movement (“Meditation” 2) is catchy nonetheless, and played here with point and color. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review



Ian Lace
MusicWeb International, July 2017

Antheil’s brief Jazz Symphony is weird and wild, employing three pianos to significant but not overwhelming effect and there is an equally compelling saxophone solo. …its many extraordinary transitions are handled with remarkable aplomb. Steffens clearly relishes the extrovert contortions and technical challenges of this oddly enjoyable work.

The more substantial Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1…is, accordingly, strident, barely tonal and crazily wild. It glitters and skitters. It bombards the senses. The cadenza is combustible and here I must commend the scintillating virtuoso playing of Frank Dupree…

Antheil’s work for the cinema is more obviously intimated in the narrative-style music of Capital of the World; …The music, true to its setting, not only strives for dramatic effect but also for Spanish atmosphere.

A colourful musical cavalcade infectiously performed. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review



Records International, June 2017

Of the three least-recorded items here, the single-movement concerto of 1922 is influenced by the Stravinsky of Petrushka and Le Sacre. Iberianisms are the musical currency in 1953’s Capital of the World. Virgil Thomson called the latter work, a ballet inspired by Hemingway’s short story of the same name, “the most original, striking and powerful American ballet score with which I am acquainted”. Archipelago is a no-holds-barred 1935 rumba which could have been written by Milhaud. © 2017 Records International





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