Author Topic: Kurt Weill  (Read 272 times)

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Offline Symphonic Addict

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Kurt Weill
« on: May 13, 2022, 05:01:33 PM »
No thread for this composer until now, a travesty! Even Kurt Atterberg has his own.  ;D

Just have to remedy that because I was listening to his String Quartet in B minor (1918) and it is a completely masterful piece for a youngster (Kurt was born in 1900). A somewhat dense piece of late-Romantic gestures and appealing counterpoint. The recording has a rather dry acoustics, but it's not an important impediment to enjoy it IMV.



I'm zero familiar with his operas and theatrical music. The symphonies, on the other hand, are utterly phenomenal, exciting, piquant, quite compelling overall.
Music is life, and like it, inextinguishable.

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Re: Kurt Weill
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2022, 05:39:42 PM »
Other CDs I consider top-notch:

Music is life, and like it, inextinguishable.

I love the vast surface of silence; and it is my chief delight to break it.

Carl Nielsen

Offline San Antone

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Re: Kurt Weill
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2022, 06:18:00 PM »
For me his stage works are his main stuff:

Die sieben Todsünden (Seven Deadly Sins)
Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny)
Die Dreigroschenoper (Threepenny Opera)

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Kurt Weill
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2022, 06:31:57 PM »
I agree with San Antone, I believe that Weill's main works, and most important, are his stage works. I'm personally not much of a fan, though. :-\
"Humility is society's greatest misconception."

My "Top 5" Favorite Composers: Debussy, Mahler, Strauss, Sibelius and Bartók


Offline Brewski

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Re: Kurt Weill
« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2022, 08:58:00 AM »
Thanks for starting this thread. A travesty, for sure, that it didn't exist before! A few favorite Weill performances: Ute Lemper in The Seven Deadly Sins, with Peter Oundjian and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (2008), and just last year, the Violin Concerto with the Minnesota Orchestra, Osmo Vänskä, and concertmaster Erin Keefe in the solo role. The concerto has an unusual instrumentation: winds, trumpet, two horns, percussion, timpani, and four double basses -- the latter are the only strings, aside from the soloist.

Lemper has done a lot of Weill over the years, and is one of his most ardent interpreters. Her smoky voice is ideal for songs like "Mack the Knife" and "Speak Low." (There's a ton of stuff on YouTube.)

--Bruce
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Offline San Antone

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Re: Kurt Weill
« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2022, 09:09:20 AM »
Thanks for starting this thread. A travesty, for sure, that it didn't exist before! A few favorite Weill performances: Ute Lemper in The Seven Deadly Sins, with Peter Oundjian and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (2008), and just last year, the Violin Concerto with the Minnesota Orchestra, Osmo Vänskä, and concertmaster Erin Keefe in the solo role. The concerto has an unusual instrumentation: winds, trumpet, two horns, percussion, timpani, and four double basses -- the latter are the only strings, aside from the soloist.

Lemper has done a lot of Weill over the years, and is one of his most ardent interpreters. Her smoky voice is ideal for songs like "Mack the Knife" and "Speak Low." (There's a ton of stuff on YouTube.)

--Bruce

I agree that Lemper is a fortunate interpreter of Weill, who is among my favorite composers.  There is another composer whose name always surfaces in my mind when I think of Weill and it is Marc Blitzstein.  Fewer works that resulted in recordings, The Cradle Will Rock is his most famous,  but worthwhile for anyone who enjoys Weill.

Offline kyjo

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Re: Kurt Weill
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2022, 09:20:31 AM »
I agree with San Antone, I believe that Weill's main works, and most important, are his stage works. I'm personally not much of a fan, though. :-\

Have you heard his symphonies, John? I think you’d dig them. The 1st even has some dark expressionist elements. The more accessible 2nd is a firm favorite of mine with its dynamic rhythmic energy and distinctive tunes.
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Kurt Weill
« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2022, 09:38:20 AM »
Have you heard his symphonies, John? I think you’d dig them. The 1st even has some dark expressionist elements. The more accessible 2nd is a firm favorite of mine with its dynamic rhythmic energy and distinctive tunes.

I'm prepared to believe both that the stage works are his major contribution, and that the symphonies are worth listening to.
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Offline Symphonic Addict

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Re: Kurt Weill
« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2022, 04:12:39 PM »
For me his stage works are his main stuff:

Die sieben Todsünden (Seven Deadly Sins)
Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny)
Die Dreigroschenoper (Threepenny Opera)

Thanks for the suggestions!
Music is life, and like it, inextinguishable.

I love the vast surface of silence; and it is my chief delight to break it.

Carl Nielsen

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Re: Kurt Weill
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2022, 04:15:39 PM »
Thanks for starting this thread. A travesty, for sure, that it didn't exist before! A few favorite Weill performances: Ute Lemper in The Seven Deadly Sins, with Peter Oundjian and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (2008), and just last year, the Violin Concerto with the Minnesota Orchestra, Osmo Vänskä, and concertmaster Erin Keefe in the solo role. The concerto has an unusual instrumentation: winds, trumpet, two horns, percussion, timpani, and four double basses -- the latter are the only strings, aside from the soloist.

Lemper has done a lot of Weill over the years, and is one of his most ardent interpreters. Her smoky voice is ideal for songs like "Mack the Knife" and "Speak Low." (There's a ton of stuff on YouTube.)

--Bruce

I will need to dive into his stage music, most definitely. Thanks for the info!
Music is life, and like it, inextinguishable.

I love the vast surface of silence; and it is my chief delight to break it.

Carl Nielsen

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Re: Kurt Weill
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2022, 04:17:55 PM »
Have you heard his symphonies, John? I think you’d dig them. The 1st even has some dark expressionist elements. The more accessible 2nd is a firm favorite of mine with its dynamic rhythmic energy and distinctive tunes.

Both symphonies are indeed tremendous. The ending in the 1st Symphony never fails to give a surprise.
Music is life, and like it, inextinguishable.

I love the vast surface of silence; and it is my chief delight to break it.

Carl Nielsen

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Kurt Weill
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2022, 05:42:23 PM »
Have you heard his symphonies, John? I think you’d dig them. The 1st even has some dark expressionist elements. The more accessible 2nd is a firm favorite of mine with its dynamic rhythmic energy and distinctive tunes.

I have, but from what I remember I don't recall much about them. I'll have to revisit them at some point, but not for a long time.
"Humility is society's greatest misconception."

My "Top 5" Favorite Composers: Debussy, Mahler, Strauss, Sibelius and Bartók


Offline Jo498

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Re: Kurt Weill
« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2022, 05:26:07 AM »
I am not sure I ever heard the quartet; there is also an early cello sonata. I agree that the symphonies are worthwhile but I think the best instrumental piece is the violin concerto (that was recorded by several well-known violinists).

Obviously, his main pieces are the stage works. However, I was disappointed by the "American" works (beyond a few hits, I tried the cplt? of Firebrand of Florence and the original cast? of Lady in the Dark and didn't care for either) and generally by most interpretations/recordings of his vocal music. The piece best represented on records is very probably The 7 deadly sins (maybe also the one that works best on recordings without stage action). The problem of the "German" stage works is that they were for singing actors and these hardly exist nowadays (or never existed). The problem was made worse by Mahagonny getting considerably more demanding for the singers, so one needs trained singers who usually nevertheless sound wrong. The next problem is that the last 60 years of Weill interpretation were strongly influenced by the 1950s recordings with his widow, Lotte Lenya (of "From Moscow with Love" fame) who was never a great singer to begin with and in her 50s sang the stuff transposed downwards with that raunchy night club voice. Nothing wrong with it once but people should not have taken this for THE Weill style. Because it isn't. The 1930s recordings show a detached "sachlich" (think of Bauhaus) style of singing.

Anyway, I'd recommend the 7 Deadly + Fillers with Gisela May and (despite too classical) A.S. von Otter. Try the 1930 excerpts of TPO and others (basically "original cast", or close to it). Not sure about Mahagonny, probably the 1950s with Lenya is still the most convincing.

The DG twofer with Atherton is pretty good, escpecially in the VC and Kleine Dreigroschenmusik; the singers are again rather unidiomatic. A good and moving short piece (included as filler in several Weill recordings) is the "Berliner Requiem"

I didn't like Stratas who was hyped as a Weill specialist. Lemper is o.k. as is the TPO with her (dir. Mauceri), despite a rather mixed cast with both opera and "popular" singers Kollo, Dernesch, Milva).
« Last Edit: May 15, 2022, 07:12:55 AM by Jo498 »
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Kurt Weill
« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2022, 06:30:25 AM »
For me his stage works are his main stuff:

Die sieben Todsünden (Seven Deadly Sins)
Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny)
Die Dreigroschenoper (Threepenny Opera)
These pretty clearly form the core; I'd add a few songs that stem from smaller German language (or the later French and American) works, such as "Happy End" (I am not even sure what kind of play this was, apparently not very good but the songs were) often on anthologies or as fillers. The best of these songs are probably "Surabaya Johnny", "Matrosensong" and "the Soldier's wife". And the "Berliner Requiem".
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline San Antone

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Re: Kurt Weill
« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2022, 07:03:12 AM »
These pretty clearly form the core; I'd add a few songs that stem from smaller German language (or the later French and American) works, such as "Happy End" (I am not even sure what kind of play this was, apparently not very good but the songs were) often on anthologies or as fillers. The best of these songs are probably "Surabaya Johnny", "Matrosensong" and "the Soldier's wife". And the "Berliner Requiem".

Yes, of course, there are some masterpieces among the songs: September Song (Knickerbocker Holiday); Lost in the Stars (from the show of the same name), Speak Low.  Street Scene and the earlier Mahagonny-Songspiel are very much worthwhile. Johnny Johnson, an anti-war show, has enjoyed a few revivals.