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Weill: Kleine Dreigroschenmusik; Milhaud / Weisberg


Release Date: 05/07/1992 
Label:  Nonesuch   Catalog #: 71281   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Kurt WeillDarius Milhaud
Conductor:  Arthur Weisberg
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Contemporary Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

In these two landmark works of the 20th century, the grand overtures of the fading Romantic Movement give way to a more direct approach aimed at reaching the listener as clearly possible. To this end, Weill and Milhaud borrowed from the vaudeville, burlesque, and jazz idioms, creating an aural snapshot of Europe between the wars.

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In December 1973, the same two works appeared on another disc (Decca Phase 4 PFS4280) by the London Festival Recording Ensemble conducted by Bernard Herrmann. Herrmann took 17 minutes 53 seconds over La creation du monde—an unusually slow time, but one which paid off in terms of poetic intensity of feeling : Arthur Weisberg polishes it off in a record 15 minutes flat, and gives
Read more the impression of not seeking to get much beneath the jazzy surface or thinking about the ballet's subject of the mystery of the creation as seen through negro eyes. He starts briskly, missing the desired sense of serenity, takes the fugue of the negro gods at an impossible pace, and only reins in for the tender oboe tune (which Milhaud had derived from his previous Three rag-caprices). But he has an efficient, well-integrated ensemble under him (with suaver brass than Herrmann's), and its clean, precise syncopations in the "Animals' dance" are most praiseworthy : the oboe plays his blues flexibly (though his high Fs later are offcentre), and I like the clarinet's sang-froid against the others' excitement in the "Dance of desire". The recording engineer doesn't fully take the measure of the great difficulties posed by this work: there could with advantage have been greater separation, and the double-bass line throughout the fugue (not only its statement of the subject) needed discreet boosting—Milhaud's instrumentation here is unrealistically optimistic.

For the Milhaud, the Herrmann version seems to me much superior; but things are the other way round for the suite from Die Dreigroschenoper. For a start, we are now given the full suite, including the Overture and Finale which were omitted from the Decca disc; there is a better defined tuba line; Weisberg eschews the jangle-box piano (which was a bad idea) in favour of the ordinary piano specified in the score; and unlike Herrmann, who followed Leinsdorf's breathless example, he takes the "Kanonensong" at more or less the right speed"Charleston-tempo". My only slight criticisms here are of some imprecision in those awkward dotted triplets for saxes and woodblock in "Mackie Messer" and of the inexplicable omission of the 'soft-shoe shuffle' side-drum rhythm from the "Ballade vom angenehrnen Leben".

-- Gramophone [3/1974]
reviewing the original LP release of this album
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Works on This Recording

1.
Kleine Dreigroschenmusik by Kurt Weill
Conductor:  Arthur Weisberg
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Contemporary Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929; Germany 
2.
La création du monde, Op. 81 by Darius Milhaud
Conductor:  Arthur Weisberg
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Contemporary Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; France 

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