Kurt Weill

Alabama Song, for voice & orchestra (from "Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny")

    Description by James Leonard

    Before the Doors, before The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, and before the Mahagonny Singspiel, the Alabama Song was simply a song lyric tucked in an ersatz prayer book published by Bertolt Brecht in Berlin in the early '20s. Brecht, whose bizarre vision of American capitalism run-amuck in a tropical Klondike derived as much from Chaplin's The Gold Rush as Marx's Das Kapital, wrote his sequence of dirty songs and blasphemous prayers called Domestic Breviary. This book seduced the young composer Kurt Weill, a cantor's song and a disciple of the New Objectivity of Busoni, into writing lurid and lewd songs, songs that, as Weill explained, "corresponded, I suppose, to the better type of American popular song." Weill set five of Brecht's songs in 1927 as the Mahagonny Singspiel, which led to his collaboration with Brecht in Die Dreigroschenoper of 1928 and the opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny of 1929. In both the Singspiel and the opera, the Alabama Song is sung by a crew of louts looking for a good time in a city devoted to drinking, gambling, fighting, and whoring. The melody they belt out in double time is simple, direct, and derived in part from a melody by Brecht. The setting is quick, staccato, and violent. The rhythm is repetitive and relentless. The harmonies are harsh and grating. The song is nasty, brutal, banal, and -- above all -- instantly memorable and forever unforgettable.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Warner Classics 0190295774592
    2017 Sterling CDA 1820
    2014 ZYX Classics / ZYX Music CLA 101842
    2014 Gramola 99006
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099967901
    2011 Capriccio Records C 5061
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099969718
    2008 Winter & Winter 9101382
    2008 LML Music 231
    2006 Universal Distribution 5866442
    2004 Rca Red Seal 82876608722
    2003 La Dual Band / Original Cast 5780
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 57268
    2002 Chandos CHAN 9924
    1998 London / PolyGram 460594
    1998 BMG / RCA 74321601192
    1997 Sony Classical 63046
    1994 Capriccio Records 10347
    1994 Capriccio Records 14851
    1990 Sony Music Distribution 42658
    Pearl 9617
    Koch International Classics 7087