Monday, March 2, 2009

Happy Birthday, KW

I didn't realize it until I heard it on the radio just now, but today is Kurt Weill's 109th birthday. He is one of my favorite composers. A cantor's son, he studied composition with Busoni, wrote many great songs, not to mention Die Dreigroschen Oper, and married Lotte Lenya twice. Weill died when he was 50- not old by today's standards- in 1950. Perhaps Weill alone of all the German emigres became an American artist- he embraced American musical theatre in a way that Mann did not embrace the novel, for example. And his work still resonates; not just Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife," but Teresa Stratas' interpretation of "I'm a Stranger Here Myself" and Elvis Costello's "Lost in the Stars." Not everyone likes Weill, but I think he's unfairly neglected. Have you ever heard Walter Huston sing "Venus and Mars" from Knickbocker Holiday? Or Lenya herself sing "Surabaya Johnny"? Or Mary Martin sing "It's Him"?

1 comment:

Barry Rowell said...

We have an album, "September Songs," that is an all-star tribute to Weill: it has the Elvis Costello "Lost in the Stars", Lou Reid "September Song", David Johanssen "The Alabama Song", PJ Harvey "The Ballad of the Soldier's Wife" and Nick Cave "Mac the Knife" and many other great covers. It's the companion piece to a video that Catherine and I caught on PBS over 10 years ago and we still play it. I also have a recording of his Symphonies 1 and 2 that I listen to when I'm writing (among other pieces). He had a brilliant and wide-ranging talent. Happy Birthday, Kurt!