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Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)
The Seven Deadly Sins (1933)
Little Threepenny Music – concert suite (1928-29)
Julia Migenes (soprano)
Robert Tear and Stuart Kale (tenors)
Alan Opie (baritone)
Roderick Kennedy (bass)
London Symphony Orchestra/Michael Tilson Thomas
Recorded London, April 1987 (The Seven Deadly Sins) and April 1988 (Little Threepenny Music)


Whether you run to Fassbaender in the Seven Deadly Sins, employing a lieder singer’s pointing and idiom, or to the exquisitely sung but somewhat less well characterised von Otter there are certainly voices to suit most tastes (Lenya’s I suppose we needn’t even touch on). Even amongst the competition the combination of Migenes and Tilson Thomas produces something unusually remarkable, in this last major collaboration between Weill and Brecht. Migenes occupies a distinct place in a piece that responds amazingly well to lieder intimacies, operatic drama and refined classicism. Hers is an operatic, outsize sensibility but it’s entirely convincing both in voluptuous sensuality and also in superfine impersonation (as for example of the two sisters in Lust). Rightly the texts are explored with lacerating exposure as she extracts every ounce of evocative sensuousness and contempt from the suggestive lyrics. Tilson Thomas’s symphonic understanding of the score is equally profound and the superlatives run to the men of whom Alan Opie is outstanding in Sloth and Robert Tear adds his clarion tenor to Gluttony.

Tilson Thomas is at his most charismatic in Pride where his subtle conducting manages a vivacious drama that is sustained throughout the length of the recording though in the Molto agitato Anger he and the LSO generate even more heat. There is a sense of corporate instrumental and vocal virtuosity here that is entirely winning and that applies equally to the Little Threepenny Music recorded a year later in the same location, Henry Wood Hall. The only blot on the production is that there are no printed lyrics. Otherwise, unalloyed admiration – and pleasure.

Jonathan Woolf


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