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Lotte Lenya Sings Berlin Theatre Songs by Kurt Weill / September Song and Other American Theatre Songs of Kurt Weill

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Album Review

Songs arranged by Kurt Weill for Lotte Lenya from 1938-1949, these 1957 recordings remain definitive versions of many of the Weill classics introduced to younger audiences with the successful Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill A&M release. Of those later recordings, only Marianne Faithfull's "Ballad of the Soldier's Wife" came anywhere near to the sublime stylings of Lenya's; the rest of the album (a popular and acclaimed seller) are trivial renditions by comparison. Weill most often wrote music to accompany existing lyrics, and September Song features two tracks with lyrics by Ogden Nash, two by Ira Gershwin, two by Langston Hughes, one by Alan Jay Lerner, and the remaining five by Weill's most frequent collaborator, Maxwell Anderson. Lenya and Weill were, of course, a married couple, renowned socially as masters of hilarious verbal barbs and arrows, urbane and sophisticated conversationalists who could easily finish the other's sentence or interject a wonderfully deflating comment with impeccable timing. It was this psychic connection that has made Lenya the definitive performer of Weill's work — every accentuated nuance, hesitant pause, and delicious husky quaver must be regarded as the composer's intention, brilliantly revealed in emotional memory by his surviving lover. The songs on September Song were recorded late in Lenya's life; she had retired theatrically before Weill's death, and was devastated by the loss of her beloved mate in 1950. Unable to remain alone, she formed a bond with close friend George Davis, who became her second husband and coaxed her to return to performing Weill's songs; together they subsequently dedicated their lives to keeping Weill's memory alive, in stage performances, recordings, and the creation of the Kurt Weill Foundation of Music. Her return to recording was then, as now, justifiably applauded, as the advance in recording technology captured many exquisite performances, including brilliant versions of "Saga of Jennie," "Speak Low," "Lonely House," "A Boy Like You," "Trouble Man," and "Lost in the Stars," all on this album. All of these songs have been remastered and reissued on CD compilations, but the original vinyl release, with their many photographs and notes by Maxwell Anderson and Goddard Lieberson, and their superb Columbia sound, should be proudly part of the collections of enthusiasts of German cabaret or American theater recordings. Enthusiastically recommended.

Biography

Born: 18 October 1898 in Penzing, Vienna

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Lotte Lenya was a Tony Award-winning actress/singer who appeared primarily on stage from the 1920s to the '70s, while also recording and making occasional appearances on film, radio, and television. She was closely associated with the music of her husband, composer Kurt Weill, frequently appearing in his stage works and participating in recordings of his music. More broadly, she was identified with the interwar era in Germany, which led, for example, to her casting in the Broadway musical Cabaret....
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