Antheil's 'Ballet mécanique' returns to Boston

Antheil's 'Ballet mécanique' returns to Boston
© "Bad Boy Made Good"
November 18, 1999, was the world premiere of George Antheil's spectacular 1924 composition Ballet mécanique in the original form that Antheil imagined. For multiple player pianos, percussion orchestra, airplane propellers, bells, and siren, the piece has been performed over 30 times around the world during the last ten years.

Now, just in time for the 10th anniversary of the premiere, Ballet mécanique returns to Boston. The Boston Modern Orchestra Project, under the direction of Gil Rose, is performing the mammoth work in the finale of their "Big Bang" concert on Friday, November 13, at the New England Conservatory's at Jordan Hall. Ten Yamaha Disklavier player pianos will be on the stage, along with xylophones, bass drums, gong, a real (and loud!) siren, and all the rest.

When Rose and BMOP performed the piece in 2001 at Symphony Hall, the Boston Phoenix called it, "A thrilling event!...like hearing the 20th-century modern being born!"

It promises to be one of the most memorable concerts of the season. It starts at 8:00 pm, with a pre-concert talk at 7:00. More information and tickets are here.

The weekend before the concert, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts is showing the award-winning documentary film about Ballet mécanique and its remarkable history. "Bad Boy Made Good," produced by Paul D. Lehrman and directed by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Ron Frank. The 72-minute film examines the composer's early life in America and Paris, where he was the toast of the town in the 1920s, and how he composed the most outrageous piece of music in history — and how it, and he, slid into oblivion for over 70 years. Then it brings us to the end of the century, when modern computer technology made it possible to realize the young composer's extraordinary vision for the first time. The film has been shown at festivals all over the world, and was broadcast on PBS. The MFA offers a rare opportunity to see it on a big screen, in its uncut version.

The screening is on Saturday, November 7, at 5:15 pm. Advance tickets are available at the museum box office.

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