Anja Silja / Grzegorz Nowak / SWR Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra

Weill: The 7 Deadly Sins

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Anja Silja made this recording when she was well into the fourth decade of her performing career, but the role of Anna in Weill's Die sieben Todsünden is well suited to a voice that sounds like it has had some experience. Silja, in fact, sounds more polished and refined than many of the singers who have taken this part, which Weill wrote for Lotte Lenya, who was hardly noted for the tonal beauty of her instrument. If anything, Silja sounds too operatic, and her performance lacks the rough-edged bite that can heighten the pathos of the piece. Overall, the 2002 performance, with Grezegorz Nowak leading SWR Rundfunkorchester Kaiserslautern, tends to be understated, letting the work's ironies speak for themselves rather than pushing them. The orchestral playing and singing of the male vocal quartet representing Anna's family are polished and precise, but it could be argued that this piece, one of Weill and Brecht's angriest indictments of bourgeois society, could use more wildness and spirit. Just as Silja's Anna is surprisingly undercharacterized, given her track record of fiercely evocative performances, the whole undertaking seems too well-mannered to accurately convey the work's bitter tone. It's such a strong piece, though, that even in a less than ideal performance, its impact is heartbreaking. Weill's Quodlibet from 1923 is a four-movement suite taken from a children's pantomime, Zaubernacht, that he had written the year before. It's an attractive piece that demonstrates the young composer's experimentation with a variety of styles, including late Romanticism, neo-Classicism, and modernism, with glimpses of his incipient characteristic originality popping up. Hänssler's sound is clean, detailed, and spacious.

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