KURT WEILL: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2; Quodlibet – German Chamber Philharmonic, Bremen/ Anthony Beaumont – Chandos

by | Aug 28, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

KURT WEILL: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2; Quodlibet – German Chamber Philharmonic, Bremen/ Anthony Beaumont – Chandos Multichannel SACD CHSA 5046, 72:16 ***1/2:

This coupling has been done before, but not with the additional and very appropriate 22-minute work, which is a suite taken from the score of a children’s pantomime titled Zaubernacht, which has been lost.  Though a work from the early 20s when Weill was composing under the influence of Busoni and with atonal elements, there are a few melodies, which Weill must have felt required to include since this was a children’s musical entertainment.

As with the previous coupling of the two symphonies – the first from 1921 and the second from 1934 – I endured the first and enjoyed the second.  The early “Berlin” Symphony is in one movement, dissonant thruout and clearly created before Weill “saw the light” about creating music for the general populace rather than the aficionados.

The first movement of the Second Symphony – subtitled a Symphonic Fantasy – opens with a minor key but completely tonal theme motoring away. Over it various woodwind soloists enter like characters coming onstage singing in Mahagony or the Three Penny Opera. The dramatic Largo movement contains one lyrical theme which you could imagine Lotte Lenya singing in a Weill stage production.  The final movement of the symphony ends with an increasingly military and threatening-sounding march which concludes its final peroration with a gunshot-like percussion punctuation. Note that this was composed just after Weill saw what was coming in Nazi Germany and hightailed it to Paris.

I didn’t realize before that the Second’s parameters were suitable for a chamber orchestra, but the sound is as rich and full as most orchestral symphonies. The Bremen players are expert and Chando’s 5.1 surround is fully up to the task of creating a concert hall feeling.  I find it surprising that many labels continue to make orchestral recordings in 4.0 or 4.1 surround that ignore the center channel. It adds a great deal in providing a more realistic soundstage and better off-axis listening.

 – John Sunier

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