Lotte Lenya

Six Songs by Kurt Weill

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Kurt Weill, who arranged his music on this album and played the piano to accompany his wife, Lotte Lenya, has chosen to represent three of his phases as a songwriter on each of the three 78 rpm discs, in reverse chronological order, beginning with his current English language period and then moving backward to his exile in France and finally to his beginnings in pre-Nazi Germany. (As a Jew, the composer was forced to flee his native country in 1933 to avoid persecution.) The first two songs, given their premiere recordings here, come from Ulysses Africanus, an unproduced musical on which Weill collaborated with lyricist Maxwell Anderson, his partner on Knickerbocker Holiday. "Lost in the Stars" is a beautiful ballad with a religious theme, while "Lover Man" (not to be confused with the Billie Holiday song) is also affecting. On the French disc, "J'Attends un Navire" ("I Am Waiting for a Ship") comes from the 1934 play Marie Galante and reportedly took on a new meaning in Vichy France among Resistance fighters. "Complainte de la Seine" was written for the cabaret singer Lys Gauty. Finally, there are two early German songs with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, the emotive "Soerabaja Johnny" (usually written as "Surabaya Johnny") and the discursive "Wie Man Sich Bettett …." Lenya demonstrates a good ear for the three languages and proves a definitive interpreter of her husband's music, as, indeed, she has been considered to be for some time. Six years after its introduction on this album, "Lost in the Stars" became the title song of a Weill/Anderson Broadway musical.