The Weill Project: Resources
There are numerous books about Kurt Weill, some of them worthwhile, some not. Here are four standouts:
- Douglas Jarman, Kurt Weill: An illustrated Biography, Orbis (1982). The first half is a good basic biography; the second
half is an insightful overview of Weill's musical development, with a particular focus on identifying his influences.
- Lys Symonette and Kim H. Kowalke (eds.), Speak Low (When You Speak Love): The Letters of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya,
University of California Press (1996). Love, travel, business, gossip.
- Stephen Hinton, Weill's Musical Theater: Stages of Reform, University of California Press (2012).
Probably the strongest academic study of Weill; quite well written (not the dreaded "academic tome"),
and full of quotations from Weill's own writings and correspondence.
- Foster Hirsch, Kurt Weill on Stage: From Berlin to Broadway, Knopf (2002). Another well-written biography, this one with
a particular focus on theater.
Online Kurt Weill resources:
"If there had been a classical night at CBGB, this is what it would have sounded like." - Joe Mabel on the Weimar-era recordings of Brecht/Weill material.
There are literally thousands of recordings of Weill's music, maybe tens of thousands. Here are a few favorites that can be found online.
- "Moritat (Mack the Knife)",
sung by Bertolt Brecht, 1929. Lyrics: Bertolt Brecht, music: Kurt Weill (1928).
- "Alabama Song" featuring Lotte Lenya, "The Three Admirals",
and Theo Mackeben's Jazz Orchestra. 24 February 1930. Lyrics: Elisabeth Hauptmann, music: Kurt Weill (1927).
- Threepenny Opera, entire 1931 film online.
Singers: Rudolf Forster, Lotte Lenya, Carola Neher, Hermann Thimig. Conductor: Theo Mackeben. Director: G.Wilhelm Pabst.
Lyrics: Bertolt Brecht, music: Kurt Weill (1928). Rather low-res, in German with Spanish subtitles, but it's what's available.
- "Speak Low", Frank Sinatra, on a V-Disc (specially produced to be sent to
U.S. military abroad). Franklin D. Roosevelt Birthday Salute, orchestra directed by Axel Stordahl, 29 January 1944.
Lyrics: Ogden Nash, music: Kurt Weill (1943).
- "Speak Low", Billie Holliday, 14 August 1956 in Los Angeles.
Harry Edison (trumpet), Ben Webster (tenor saxophone), Jimmy Rowles (piano), Barney Kessel (guitar), Joe Mondragon (bass), and Alvin Stoller (drums).
- "Moritat (Mack the Knife)": Louis Armstrong at the Hollywood Palace, 1 May 1965.
- "Youkali", Teresa Stratas, 1981. Lyrics: Roger Fernay, music: Kurt Weill (1935).
- "Call From The Grave/Ballad In Which Macheath Begs All Men For Forgiveness",
Todd Rundgren and Gary Windo, 1986. Lyrics: Bertolt Brecht, music: Kurt Weill (1928).
- "September Song". Lou Reed did two very different arrangements of this song in the 1980s.
This is by far the more serious of the two. Lyrics: Maxwell Anderson, music: Kurt Weill.
- Nina Hagen and the New Japan Philarmonic Orchestra in Tokyo, December 1985. Begins with
"Alabama Song" and the Brecht/Weill songs "Ach, bedenken Sie, Herr Jakob Schmidt" (from Mahagonny and "Surabaya Johnny" (from Happy End),
followed by the "Habanera" from Bizet's Carmen and a jam on "Moritat (Mack the Knife)".
All materials copyright © 2021 Joseph L. Mabel unless otherwise noted.
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Last modified: 15 March 2021
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