Various Artists

O Moon of Alabama: Historische Aufnahmen 1928-1944

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O Moon of Alabama is one of a series of albums released by the German Capriccio label reissuing period recordings of the music of composer Kurt Weill from the late 1920s and early '30s. It is unusual in that it includes no music at all from Weill's best-known work of the period, The Threepenny Opera, because that music is contained on other Capriccio albums. Instead, this disc presents a miscellany of recordings of music from the operas Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, The Tsar Has His Photograph Taken, and The Silverlake, and the plays Konjunktur and Happy End. In most cases, Weill's lyric partner was Bertolt Brecht, who also wrote the words for the songs in The Threepenny Opera, and some of the songs here are as just as well-known, notably "Bilbao Song," "Alabama Song" (which is given both an instrumental reading by Marek Weber & His Orchestra and a vocal version by Lotte Lenya), and "Surabaya Johnny." Clearly, the last was a particular favorite in its day, as it has proved since; here, there are no less than four versions, two of them instrumentals, one in German by Lenya and one in French by Marianne Oswald. The most ambitious piece is an eight-and-a-half-minute medley of music from Mahagonny sung by a "large ensemble" and played by the orchestra that performed in the show's Berlin production. Lenya is in that ensemble, too, and the singer, Weill's wife, of course, in fact has 13 vocals among the 23 selections, her dominance much increased by what might be called the album's addenda. After the 15 tracks that make up the main material, the album concludes with the tracks from the three-78 rpm set Six Songs by Kurt Weill, a recording made in New York in 1943 featuring Lenya accompanied by Weill at the piano. On it, they introduce "Lost in the Stars" six years before it became the title song of Weill's final Broadway musical, and Lenya sings one more version of "Surabaya Johnny" for good measure, bringing the total here to five. The last two tracks are songs written to be broadcast as propaganda in Germany in the final days of World War II. Although this material comes a decade after the earlier tracks, it fits the theme of the album in the sense that the compilation rounds up rare and obscure Weill recordings long out of print and preserves them in the digital realm. (The sound quality "cannot compare to modern audio standards," as a note on the back cover admits. Often mastered from shellac 78s of more than 60 years vintage, the tracks display considerable hiss and crackles. But the music is worth hearing through the noise.)

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:57
Der Zar lässt sich photographieren (The Czar Has His Photograph Taken), opera, Op. 21
2 3:05
Konjunktur, incidental music (partly lost)
3 2:58
Happy End, musical play
4 2:54
5 2:57
6 3:10
7 2:45
8 3:04
9 2:44
10 3:18
Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny), opera
11 2:51
12 3:24
13 8:36
Der Silbersee (The Silver Lake), musical play
14 2:56
15 3:09
16 3:02
17 2:53
18 3:03
19 3:28
20 3:07
21 3:05
22 4:11
23 3:16
blue highlight denotes track pick