Various Artists

Kurt Weill in America

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Kurt Weill in America is a studio recording re-creating a concert of the same name staged as part of the "Lyrics and Lyricists" series at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan; the artistic director of the show was nightclub singer Andrea Marcovicci, and the album is released by her Andreasong record label. Of course, Kurt Weill was a composer, not a lyricist, but during the 14-plus years he lived in the U.S., 1935-1950, he worked with a number of prominent wordsmiths, most frequently Maxwell Anderson and Ira Gershwin, as well as writing single shows with Ogden Nash, Langston Hughes, and Alan Jay Lerner. The music Weill composed during his life in America is varied enough to suggest many different interpretations. For example, opera singer Thomas Hampson and conductor John McGlinn, in the 1996 album Kurt Weill on Broadway, used Weill's original orchestrations and emphasized the art-song and operetta nature of his work. Marcovicci chooses some of the same songs ("Johnny's Song" from Johnny Johnson, "It Never Was You" from Knickerbocker Holiday, "Life, Love, and Laughter" from Firebrand of Florence, "Westwind" from One Touch of Venus, and "Here I'll Stay" from Love Life), but, with Shelly Markham providing the arrangements for his piano/bass/drums/reeds quartet, she creates a nightclub act for seven singers (herself, Anna Bergman, Barbara Brussell, Mark Coffin, Chuck Cooper, Jeff Harnar, and Maude Maggart) that appropriately emphasizes the lyrics in intimate interpretations full of romantic and wistful sentiments. In "Act I" (tracks 1-14), the diversity of Weill's American music is emphasized in often obscure material such as the Western-tinged "Oh! The Rio Grande (The Cowboy Song)" from Johnny Johnson (lyrics by Paul Green); the romantic "The River Is Blue," written for but cut from a film called Blockade (lyrics by Ann Ronell); and the World War II-themed "Buddy on the Nightshift" from the revue Lunch Time Follies, which toured arms factories during the war (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II). "Act II" (tracks 15-23) is much more devoted to Weill's American hits, particularly a clutch of tunes from his longest running Broadway show, One Touch of Venus, including "Speak Low," and, from Knickerbocker Holiday, "September Song." It is notable that Marcovicci's choices from another successful Broadway musical, Lady in the Dark, are the ballads "This Is New" and "My Ship," rather than the better known showstoppers "Tchaikovsky" and "The Saga of Jenny," both of which she mentions in her liner notes. It is the romantic Weill she wants to present here, not the funny one. Her well-chosen cast abets her in that pursuit. All the singers are effective, although special mention should be made of Cooper, a baritone who handles "Lost in the Stars," Maggart, whose showcases are "The River Is So Blue" and "My Ship," and Brussell on "Here I'll Stay" and "Speak Low."

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:57
2 2:21
3 2:20
4 2:29
5 2:49
Street Scene, opera
6 4:04
7 7:07
8 3:03
9 2:49
10 2:32
The River is Blue, film score (aka "Castles in Spain")
11 2:46
Work(s)
12 5:48
13 2:55
14 2:52
15 3:12
16 3:07
17 2:25
18 2:35
19 3:11
20 3:35
21 2:56
22 4:43
23 3:26
blue highlight denotes track pick