Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)
Symphony No.1 (1921) [25:46]
Kleine Dreigroschenmusik für Blasorchester - Suite aus der "Dreigroschenoper" [21:37]
Symphony No.2 (1933) [26:31]
The Gulbenkian Orchestra/Michel Swierczewski
rec. Lisbon, 16-19 July 1990
NIMBUS NI5283 [74:13]
For years the two Weill symphonies were dominated in the LP catalogue by two conductors: Gary Bertini and Edo de Waart. More recently Marin Alsop successfully took the symphonies into the studio for Naxos. Bertini – well respected for his Mahler cycle on EMI Classics – has kept a tighter grip on the shops having been reissued on CD several times. It began life with BBC Symphony Orchestra sessions at the Kingsway Hall in 1965-67. These emerged as an EMI Classics stereo LP (ASD 2390) and then turned up on Argo (ZRG 755) – or was it the other way around. Its somewhat overshadowed ‘echo’ came out in 1975 when the LP had less than ten years to live. The Gewandhausorchester Leipzig were conducted by de Waart. This initially appeared on East German Eterna as ED1 826673 but may be better known as Philips LP 6500-642; I am not sure whether it was ever re-issued on CD - does anyone know? However in 1996 the Bertini had the CD treatment from EMI Classics (5 65869 2.). It was number 25 in their admirable Matrix series.
There is a link between the Bertini recordings and the present disc. It’s to be found in the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The Foundation – always a champion of fine neglected music - financially supported the Bertini sessions and it is the Gulbenkian Orchestra that plays these two symphonies and the Weill-Klemperer suite.
Fine performances from this conductor and Nimbus’s analytical recording reports a host of details without losing impact or the broad sweep in what is a richly resonant acoustic. The First Symphony is tender, world-weary and salty. Its energy is threaded through with disillusion and a knowing cynicism. This is not sufficient to preclude an ending which has a sense of repose. The music has perhaps a shade of Markevitch’s inhuman exuberance but there are also Bergian passages that evoke a tender Klimtian dream. The Symphony was written in April and June 1921 while Weill was part of Busoni’s class. It was premiered in Berlin in 1957 and only published in 1968. The gritty and acrid tang of Kleine Dreigroschenmusik is not tempered by Swierczewski. Indeed the cigar smoke, diesel and drains miasma mixes well with the pompous and dissolute Weimar-Grosz atmosphere. This is greatly helped by the role played by saxophone, guitar and banjo. The Second Symphony Pariser was written around the time of Weill’s enforced departure from Germany in 1933. It was premiered by Bruno Walter at the Concertgebouw in 1934. An agreeably harsh and grating rhythmic mordancy is coupled with a grunting and waxing undertow. There’s a very catchy finale with sparkling woodwind and a Svejk-like strut. The last few pages offer up a galloping romp.
There’s a good supportive note by David Gutman.
We hear far too little from Swierczewski. Not only is this the finest pair of Weill symphonies in the catalogue but also his stunning set of the Méhul symphonies - on Nimbus - is a further collector’s item.

Rob Barnett
The finest pair of Weill symphonies in the catalogue.