Historic Original Recordings 1928-1944
The first disc of this 2-CD collection is mostly music from the Threepenny Opera,
including the original cast (1928-31) and select foreign song
recordings from 1930-31. While this music by Kurt Weill and Berthold
Brecht has received many performances, there has been a subtle shift in
interpretation over time.
These recordings document how
these songs were first performed, with the brashness and exuberance of
early jazz. Listening to the original cast of Die Dreigoschenoper
(Harald Paulsen, Carola, Neher, Kurt Garron, and Lotte Lenya) is a
revelation. There’s a subversive undercurrent in these singers’ delivery
that’s missing in modern performances.
includes not only the original cast, but also the first Dutch recordings of
Weill’s music, along with some dance band covers of the day. Also
included are 1929 recordings by the Berlin State Opera Orchestra with
Otto Klemperer of the Threepenny Opera concert suite.
Disc 2 features a variety of historic and exceedingly rare recordings from 1928-1944. It includes music from Happy End,
a unsuccessful comedy. The songs by Brecht and Weill from that
ill-fated production were recorded in 1929, but seldom heard since.
“Six Songs” is a transcription of a box set released in 1943. These
American releases feature Lotte Lenya (her voice already starting to
darken) with Weill’s piano arrangements made specifically for the
recordings. The collection ends with two anti-Nazi political songs Kurt
Weill and Bertolt Brecht wrote for the Office of War during the Second
World War. These were broadcast into Germany via shortwave in 1942 and
1944 sung (of course) by Lotte Lenya.
For the most part,
the transfers are very good. Surface noise is minimal, and the sound
isn’t over-processed. These are mono recordings, and there’s some
compression, but not more than what one would expect from shellac discs
almost a century old. I found this a fascinating collection of music,
and one that provides historical context to Kurt Weill’s compositions.