> Weill Die Dreigroschenoper etc. [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)
Songs, Abridgements and Extracts

Die Dreigroschenoper (1928)
Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (1930)
Rudolf NELSON (1878-1960)

Das Nachtgespenst
Friedrich HOLLAENDER (1896-1976)

Guck doch nicht immer nach dem Tangogeiger hin
Wilhelm GROSZ (1894-1939)

Vom Seemann Kuttel Daddeldu
Lotte Lenya, Kurt Gerron, Erich Ponto, Willi Trenk-Trebitsch, Erica Helmke
Lewis Ruth Band conducted by Theo Mackeben (Der Dreigroschenoper, recorded December 1930)
Lotte Lenya and The Three Admirals with Theo Mackeben and his Jazz Orchestra (Aufstieg und Fall Der Stadt Mahagonny, recorded February 1930)
Kurt Gerron and Rudolf Nelson, piano (Das Nachtgespenst, recorded March 1930)
Marlene Dietrich and Orchestra conducted by Peter Kreuder (Peter and Jonny, recorded March 1931)
Curt Bois with Theo Mackeben and his Orchestra (Guck doch, recorded April 1930)
Kurt Gerron with Orchestra (Vom Seemann, recorded September 1930)
Albert Préjean, Jacques Henley, Margo Lion with the Lewis Ruth Band conducted by Theo Mackeben (L’Opera de Quat’sous, recorded November 1930)
Carola Neher and Bertolt Brecht with Theo Mackeben and his Orchestra (Die Dreigroschenoper, recorded May 1929)
TELDEC TELEFUNKEN LEGACY 0927 42663 2 [78.09]



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The explosive success of Die Dreigroschenoper following its sensational premiere on 31st August 1928 instigated a mini bidding war amongst recording companies, all of which wanted to secure recording rights for what they rightly saw as a money spinning enterprise. Vocal, instrumental and dance arrangements were all issued but it wasn’t until two years after the premiere that Telefunken brought out eight sides with broadly the original cast – with Brecht adding texts, spoken by Kurt Gerron, before each song. The orchestrations were somewhat changed for the recording and there was one significant cast replacement – Willy Trenk-Trebitsch, who’d sung in the Prague premiere, replaced Harald Paulsen who had a much smoother voice than the slightly raucous Trenk-Trebitsch.

Otherwise these discs capture a contemporary performance tradition in full motor and are part of the fabric of recording history. The Dreigroschenoper is supplemented by four sides of the French production and by four sides from 1929 recorded on the Orchestrola label and featuring Carola Neher – who makes up in artistry what she lacks in voice - and Brecht himself in their mini-selection. As if these famous records weren’t riches enough there are songs by Rudolf Nelson, Friedrich Hollaender and Wilhelm Grosz sung by Kurt Gerron (later to be murdered in Auschwitz in 1944), Marlene Dietrich and Curt Bois.

Lenya’s soprano is full of clarity and the tremulous and eerily romantic commas and disjunctions of Seeräuberjenny are conveyed with pungent directness. The facetious Hawaiian guitar in Zuhäilterbassatle, the evocative delicacies of Barbara Song and the coarse harshness and anti-sentimentalism of the Zweites Dreigroschen-Finale register in the sharpest, most explicit way in these near-definitive performances. There’s a study to be made of the insouciance of the Lied von der Unzulänglichkeit and the bleating vibrato of the final selection, Moritat und Schlusschoral. The French version, with Préjean, Henley and Lion was once again distinguished by the accompaniment of the house orchestra, the Lewis Ruth band, and conducted by the ubiquitous Theo Mackeben – but this a performance from a different tradition entirely. The result of the voice types and imperatives is to take the sting from the music; there’s a not unattractive but unidiomatic, sanguine elegance to the performances.

Of the other performances Gerron is cocksure and humorous in Das Nachtgespenst and Dietrich radiates sensuous intimacy in Peter. Curt Bois does a hilarious turn in Hollaender’s Guck doch nich immer nach dem Tangogeiger hin, with its jealous tango inflected tale of the lothario fiddler complete with voice impersonation and mordant saxophone. Gerron returns for the bitter baritonal truths of Vom Seemann Kuttel Daddeldu larding the impersonation with a drunk act and a pungent sarcasm. As for Brecht himself, in his two outings he is sinuous and insinuating, rolling his "r" in so extravagant and lascivious a way its like has never been heard since. To hear him accompanied by the Depression Era pipe organ in Die Moritat von Mackie-messer is not an experience to be missed.

The booklet provided in this Telefunken Legacy series is up to the now-accustomed luxury standard. Notes and texts are tri-lingual, German, English and French. Copies of the 78s are in generally sound condition and well-transferred but there is an inconsistency to the quality that is a little disappointing, There are some surely eliminatable thumps in the introduction to Erstes Dreigroschen-Finale and Carola Neher’s contributions are plagued by surface noise. Still, a momentous collection and an indispensable one for the shelves.

Jonathan Woolf

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