This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
If I confess to a love-hate relationship with the music of Kurt Weill, a deep admiration for the sharpness and strength of character, but a fundamental distaste for the decadence implied, I hope that doesn't disqualify me from commenting on a record which gives this major Brecht/Weill inspiration an entirely new look. If I had to choose just one record of Weill's music, then this would be it. for Simon Rattle, as he makes plain in his interview in "Here and There" (page 1136), feels that in this work the traditional view based on the recording (made in the fifties) featuring the composer's wife. Lotte Lenya, gives a false idea of the piece (CBS 73657, 9/77). Very evidently in a work revolving round two young girls (Anna I and Anna
II; the idealistic Anna—dancer, and the practical Anna—singer), the croaking voice of Lenya, however characterful, is dramatically inappropriate. The work by association becomes a natural offshoot of earlier Brecht/Weill collaborations rather than a distinct development from that earlier song style.
In place of the composer's wife as soloist we have here the conductor's wife, Elise Ross, and with the voice distanced a little, not presented in aggressive close-up, almost as though the commentary is from the side of the stage (actually on the left of the stereo spectrum), this becomes not just a sharply memorable but a beautiful work. Over and over again with strong and sympathetic playing from the Birmingham orchestra one registers the Mahlerian refinement of much of Weill's orchestration, comparably spare, sharp in its originality of mixed timbres but not so aggressive as we usually count it. Rattle is also a man to point dance rhythms with a nudge rather than a thrust, and that too makes the result more sympathetic. Above all, what I take away from this performance, is the heartbreak implied in the final reprise of the opening number. The girls have made their tour of American cities with their respective deadly sins, and the final epilogue brings them back to where they started beside the Mississippi in Louisiana. "Right Anna?" says the practical one, as she had at the start, and this time comes back from the idealistic one the agony of disillusion in her "Right Anna!"
That is a tribute to the acting of Elise Ross, as well as to the conviction of the whole concept, a heart-clutching moment. She sings more beautifully than I have heard her before, very sweetly and tenderly. The group of male singers— described as 'Family' in the libretto—is comparably less aggressive than those on the record with Lenya, but pure and precise voices, all singing most musically, go very much with Rattle's whole approach. Though arguably the acoustic should have been drier, the recorded sound is full and vivid. Committed Weill enthusiasts may well not like the result, but for others like me in need of conversion this is balm to the ear, andvery moving with it.
-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [4/1983]
reviewing the original LP release of the Weill
...Another Stravinsky recording with the stamp of authority comes from Simon Rattle... The performances are crisply conducted, witty and very lively, with very good orchestral playing and decent enough singing from a trio of soloists in the ballet. The recording is a shade lacking in presence, but pleasantly warm.
-- Gramophone [9/1988]
reviewing the original CD release of the Stravinsky, EMI 69204
Works on This Recording
Die sieben Todsünden der Kleinbürger by Kurt Weill
John Tomlinson (Bass Baritone),
Michael Rippon (Bass),
Elise Ross (Soprano),
Ian Caley (Tenor),
Anthony Rolfe Johnson (Tenor)
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1933; Germany
Date of Recording: 09/07/1982
Venue: Town Hall, Birmingham, England
Length: 33 Minutes 29 Secs.
Pulcinella by Igor Stravinsky
John Fryatt (Tenor),
Jennifer Smith (Soprano),
Malcolm King (Bass)
Period: 20th Century
Date of Recording: 1977-78
Venue: Henry Wood Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne
Length: 38 Minutes 3 Secs.
Notes: This selection is an ADD recording.
Composition written: Switzerland (1919 - 1920).
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