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Music

Kurt Weill Festival in Dessau (pt. 2 of 2)

More from the annual festival in Dessau, Germany, the city of Weill's birth.

We'll begin with a Weill contemporary: Erwin Schulhoff, born in 1894 as the son of a Jewish wool merchant in Prague. A musical prodigy, Schulhoff studied under Max Reger in Leipzig and Claude Debussy in Paris. The German-Czech composer lived in Germany until 1924. Later, he was arrested in Nazi-occupied in Prague and deported to Bavaria. Interred at a concentration camp, he died of malnutrition, exhaustion and tuberculosis in 1942.

Schulhoff’s La Somnambule (The Somnambulent) dates from 1925. Like other selections at this concert, it has the moon as its theme. But rather than a peaceful, dreamlike image of the moon, this one fits the era of expressionism to connote dreams of a more violent kind - to the point of insanity. Writing this "dance grotesque" in the middle of the Roaring Twenties, Schulhoff picked up on the craze for trendy dance forms from America: the kind of music that Europeans then called jazz.

music scores of composer Erwin Schulhoff

Schulhoff was one of the most gifted composers of his time

The image of the moon is invoked in our second selection as well - Kurt Weill's Mahagonny Singspiel - particularly in the "Alabama Song." Entering popular culture in cover versions by David Bowie and The Doors, it comes from the opera "Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny," which Weill created in partnership with playwright Bertold Brecht. Mahagonny is a modern Sodom and Gomorrha, a negative utopia where the only real crime is not having enough money. A group of women around the prostitute Jenny make their way to the city to offer their services there. In the Alabama Song they bid farewell to the moon and to their old, respectable life.

Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942)
Die Mondsüchtige (The Moonstruck Woman)

  • Introduction - Ragtime
  • Valse Boston
  • Shimmy
  • Step
  • Tango - Jazz


Kurt Weill (1900-1950)
Mahagonny Songspiel (excerpt)

Rainer Trost (Charlie)
Peter Cismarescu (Billy)
Jens Müller (Bobby)
Carl Rumstadt (Jimmy)
Josephine Renelt (Jessie)
Andromahi Raptis (Bessie)
German State Philharmonic Rheinland Palatinate
Conductor: Ernst Theis

Recorded by DeutschlandRadio Kultur (DLR) in the Anhaltinian Theater Dessau on March 14, 2015

Rebroadcasting rights: one broadcast before March 22, 2016

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