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Posted September 19, 2011
The "cast album" was still years off when The Threepenny Opera opened, but most of the contemporary recordings by its first performers are gathered here. Other selections largely date from the early part of Weill's career, before he and his wife Lotte Lenya escaped the Nazis and settled in the U.S. Those who only know Lenya's voice as the sprechstimme foghorn of her later years may be surprised to hear her as a rather reedy soprano. She also sings eight songs accompanied by the composer at the piano. These two discs were originally issued separately, and are now combined into a budget package. Unfortunately, all the texts have been jettisoned, while keeping the dreadful translation of the notes (singers referred to as "popular French diseases"), and one track omitted from the listing of disc two. There's more record hiss than you generally get on reissues of this type, but the engineers have kept the solo voices clear and prominent, so the collector will still want to have this set.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 12, 2011
The main point of attraction to this new two disc set of selections from the best known of Kurt Weill's cabaret operas is that they are good quality transfers of the original shellac recordings, from the period 1928-1931. This is a very interesting collector's item on several levels. I am not particularly a lover of Kurt Weill, just on musical or artistic reasons (all mine and all personal taste), however, those who do love Weill will surely love this. There really is a certain charm and thrill to hear the original singers, most associated with the post-world war one German master; names such as Lotte Lenya and Ernst Busch are heard here. The singing is also a cause to hear this for what it is. Weill and other "cabaret" style composers needed a common man sound; filled with emotion (albeit melodrama) and not the usual "opera singer" timbre. Lenya is a perfect example. Another reason to hear and to have this set is the historical thrill of hearing things as they were heard. Sure, this is not audiophile stuff to be sure - although the transfers and remastering done by Hugo Gneipelt for Capriccio is about as good as can be had. Just listening is almost an imaginative exercise. One can imagine some smoke filled room with a not quite in tune piano as Germans still reeling from the first World War and just starting to hear the diatribes of Adolph Hitler listen attentively and commiserate. For me, it does paint such a picture. Lastly, there is something fascinating to see and hear that the conductors in the big works here are the same Maurice Abravanel and Otto Klemperer who went on to major artistic posts in post war Germany. I think it also nice to have some of Weill's most important but not as well known repertory here. Most people know at least "Mack the Knife" (in re Mackie Messer of the Three-Penny Opera) and many have heard selections from Weill's "Mahoganny", his "Alabama Song" - a reflection on Southern America in the 1930's. What is a treat is to here selections from "Silver Sea" and his "Six Songs", not to mention the "Two Songs for Short Wave Transmission to Germany" written in 1942 - right when things were the most chaotic. This is an important and fascinating collection for a number of reasons. As I said, the reasons to go buy this set are not for sonic amazement - but there are so many othersWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.