Kurt Weill

From Berlin to Broadway, Vol. 1: A Selection

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British archival label Pearl's Kurt Weill -- From Berlin to Broadway: A Selection is a single-disc condensation of a pair of two-CD sets, Kurt Weill -- From Berlin to Broadway (GEMM 9189) and Kurt Weill -- From Berlin to Broadway, Vol. 2 (GEMM 9294). It presents recordings from seven of Weill's stage musicals made around the times the shows were produced and sung in most cases by the performers who introduced them onstage. There are also private recordings by Weill himself, by his German collaborator Bertolt Brecht, and by his wife Lotte Lenya. The collection begins with two songs, "Moritat von Mackie Messer" (Mack the Knife) and "Kannonensong" (Cannon Song) sung by Harald Paulsen, who first played the part of Mack the Knife in Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera) in 1928, and recorded the same year. Lenya and Brecht are also heard performing songs from the show. Lenya handles most of the songs from the other two German musicals included, Happy End and Aufstieg und Fall des Stadt Mahagonny (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny), two of them in scratchy private recordings. After the initial nine tracks, the rest consists of Broadway material. Though the recording of full-length original cast albums did not become common until after the success of the Oklahoma! album in 1943, it was not uncommon before that for labels to make records of individual songs from Broadway shows using those shows' principals, and that is largely what one hears here, including a single of "September Song" that Walter Huston recorded for Brunswick in 1938 and selections from Lady in the Dark recorded by Gertrude Lawrence for RCA Victor and Danny Kaye for Columbia. Decca recorded a five-record 78 rpm cast album of One Touch of Venus in November 1943, and five of the songs are here, sung by Mary Martin and Kenny Baker. (The complete recording in much better fidelity is available from MCA on the 1996 Mary Martin album One Touch of Venus and Lute Song [MCAD-11354].) Lost in the Stars, Weill's final show, actually began life years earlier as Ulysses Africanus, and Walter Huston recorded a version of the song "Lost in the Stars" for Decca in 1944, five years before the musical opened. In a private recording, Lenya sings "Lover Man," an early version of "Trouble Man" from the show. The CD closes with four performances by Weill himself of songs for One Touch of Venus, one of which is an early version of "Way Out West in Jersey," here called "Jersey Plonk." One can hear the change in Weill's approach from the innovative sound of Die Dreigroschenoper and the other German shows to the more conventional style of the Broadway material. But Weill's individual style is always apparent, no more so than in his own performances and those of his wife when his music is stripped to just a piano and voice. These vintage recordings are crucial to an appreciation of Weill, even if they are not always in the best fidelity, and since they range from available commercial recordings to acetates in private hands, the compilation has unparalleled breadth. Weill fans will want to obtain the four CDs from which this collection was culled, but this one contains the best of Weill's stage music.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:18
3 1:35
4 1:35
5 2:42
6 3:03
feat: Lotte Lenya
feat: Lotte Lenya
feat: Lotte Lenya
10 2:52
feat: David Brooks
12 2:41
13 2:29
feat: Danny Kaye
feat: Danny Kaye
16 3:13
17 2:55
feat: Mary Martin
feat: Kenny Baker
feat: Mary Martin
feat: Mary Martin
feat: Mary Martin
23 3:05
feat: Lotte Lenya
25 1:21
26 1:21
27 1:14
28 1:44
blue highlight denotes track pick