Gisela May: Brecht Songs (along with Hosalla, Medek, Fischer, Dessau, and Eisler) – Gisela May, mezzo-soprano/ Leipzig Radio Symphony/ Herbert Kegel/ Studio Orchestra/ Heinz Rogner/ Studio Orchestra/ Henry Krtschil – Berlin Classics 0300026, 63:58 [Distr. by Allegro] ***:

Gisela May is a very noted and distinguished actress and singer in Germany, who has toured the world and taken her unique interpretations of Kurt Weill and others to many venues. I have listed her as a mezzo-soprano though it is impossible to categorize her voice, a raspy and husky sound not unlike that of Lotte Lenya whom she has obviously emulated to an extent. But Lenya on her best days was not as musical as May, as these analog recordings from 1967-76—but sounding great—demonstrate.

But I must confess that a little of this goes a long way. I enjoy Weill and the period, but the associations with Hitler’s pre-WWII society are hard to jettison, and a whole hour of this cabaret-style can pound the nerves a bit. This of course does not take anything away from May’s performances, which are always first-class and a model of the genre, her superb diction and marvelous way with the flavoring of the words a model for all. She is a master of Brecht’s style, having worked with him in the Berliner Ensemble, Brecht’s theater group, and staying for 30 years. If you love this kind of music, you are not likely to hear it performed with more authenticity than here. I suggest that all others go online and sample it first to determine whether this is for you or not.

TrackList:

1. Die sieben Todsünden (The Seven Deadly Sins), ballet: Prolog. Andante sostenuto     
2. Barbara Song, for voice & piano (from ‘Die Dreigroschenoper’)     
3. Die Seeräuber-Jenny (Pirate Jenny), song for voice & piano (from ‘Die Dreigroschenoper’)     
4. Happy End, musical play: Was die Herren Matrosen sagen     
5. Happy End, musical play: Surabaya-Johnny     
6. Denn wie man sich bettet, so liegt man (As You Make Your Bed), song for voice & orchestra (from ‘Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonn     
7. Die sieben Todsünden (The Seven Deadly Sins), ballet: Epilog. Andante sostenuto     
8. Die Legende der Dirne Evelyn Roe, for voice & orchestra     
9. Das Lied von der Wolke der Nacht, for voice & guitar     
10. Philosophisches Tanzlied (Lied der müden Empörer), for voice & piano     
11. Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder, incidental music: Lied der Mutter Courage     
12. Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti: Ballade vom Förster und der Gräfin     
13. Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti: Kleines Lied     
14. Lied einer deutschen Mutter, for voice & piano (or orchestra)     
15. Lied Einer Deutschen Mutter     
16. Ballade vom Weib und dem Soldaten, for voice & piano (or orchestra)     
17. Kuhle Wampe, film score: Das Frühjahr     
18. Schweyk im Zweiten Weltkrieg, incidental music: Das Lied vom kleinen Wind     
19. Schweyk im Zweiten Weltkrieg, incidental music: Das Lied vom Kelch     
20. Die Rundköpfe und die Spitzköpfe, incidental music: Lied von der belelenden Wirkung des Geldes     
Die Rundköpfe und die Spitzköpfe, incidental music: Kuppellied

— Steve Ritter