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Bastille Music

Kurt Weill - Bastille Music

Kurt Weill is most famous for his bitingly ironical and radical ballad operas ‘The Threepenny Opera’ (1928), ‘The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny’ (1930) and ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’ (1933) in which he collaborated with the evangelical playwright and dramatist Bertold Brecht. In these works he developed a highly individualistic style that was influenced by the risque audacity of the new jazz music, the dark romanticism and longing of Mahler, and the powerful psychological expressionism of Berg. Strongly satirising the decadence of contemporary Germany in ‘The Threepenny Opera’ and the ills of a monstrous capitalism in ‘The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny’, Weill’s music had a completely original spikiness that was sometimes witty and sometimes highly sardonic in its description of society. At other times his music poignantly evoked the sadness, suffering and frustrated romances and loves of poor and oppressed people.

Weill’s two symphonies were respectively composed before and just after this central period of ballad operas, whilst the very rarely performed Bastille music is an arrangement of incidental music for a play that dates from just before this period.

The Bastille Music is a suite, devised by the Weill scholar David Drew, taken from Weill’s incidental music for the Strindberg play Gustav The Third, premiered in Berlin in October 1927. It is most certainly written in the style of the composer’s ballad operas and strongly reflects the expressionistic tone and subject matter of the great dramatist.

Jon Tolansky

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