Sunday, 12 February 2012

Lost in stars- Kurt Weill

I'm a little boring at the moment, I know. I got a cold that took it, for me, predictable course, and developed into bronchitis. I'm not a very happy girl at the moment. So I hope you will excuse a new music post in such a short time- I have spent a lot of time on Youtube lately.

If Andrew Sisters makes me happy, Kurt Weill's music is a bit more complex for me. I found it a bit here and there- it took me a while to realise that a couple of songs I had hear here and there actually had the same composer. The very first was a version of Surabaya Johnny, with a then very popular Swedish rock band, Imperiet.

Back then I was very attracted by the sense of longing and desperation that was conveyed and that I think that you can still here, even disregarding the rather 80's sound.

Kurt Weill was born in 1900 in Germany and worked as a composer from the 1920's until his early death of an heart attack in 1950. He is probably best known for working with Bertholt Brecht, especially The Threepenny Opera from 1928. I'm a bit ambivalent toward Brecht's "Verfremdungseffekt", alienation effect- I generally his plays better when I read them rather than when I see them, but I love "The Threepenny Opera", and Weill's music has a lot to do with that love.

Lotte Lenya was Weill's wife, they got married in 1926, divorced in 1933 and then re-married in 1937. She may not have had a perfect voice, but I think she had a voice that grips you.

Being Jewish, and a socialist, Weill left Germany in 1933 and eventually moved to USA, working with his music until his death. His songs have been recorded over and over again by a number of artists like Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and countless others, like Sarah Vaughan:

Ella Fitzgerald:

and Judy Garland:

Even his funniest songs often makes you feel a bit sad. I mentioned the sense of longing in the beginning and nothing conveys that feeling like Youkali Tango;

Is the land of our desires
Is happiness, pleasure
But it is a dream, a folly
There is no Youkali"

It's one of the most beautiful songs I know, though it does make me cry. Here with the lovely Teresa Stratas. Don't miss the wonderful 30's atmosphere of the dancers!

The clip is from the movie September Songs- The Music of Kurt Weill. I can highly recommend it, though it's rather difficult to get to. I had it on VHS and lost it years ago. It's a number of Weill's most well-known songs performed by various artists, for example Nick Cave, Elvis Costello and PJ Harvey.

(Picture sources:


Emma Litton said...

I love his music. I've sung a little bit of it when I was in lovely.


Isis said...

Emma Litton: I can imagine it is!

NABNYC said...

I wrote the piece about Kurt Weil that you link to (nabnyc). I'm so glad to see somebody enjoyed it. Yes, I love much of his music, and think his history is quite fascinating. I also love women's clothes from the 1930s and 19402 (you could just copy Katherine Hepburn's wardrobe and send it to me) so I'll be sure to check back into your blog.

Isis said...

NABNYC: Yes I did. :) And i'm glad you enjoyed my blog!

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