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Kurt Weill

Kurt WeillKURT WEILL (1900 – 1950) was a German composer and American citizen from 1943. He was a pupil of Humperdinck, Busoni and Jarnach in Berlin (1918-23), and their teaching informed his early music, including the choral Recordare (1923) and the Concerto for Violin and Wind (1924). But the deeper influence of Stravinsky, coupled with an increased consciousness of music as a social force, led Weill to a rediscovery in the mid-1920s of tonal and vernacular elements, notably from jazz, in his cantata Der neue Orpheus and one-act stage piece Royal Palace, written between two collaborations with the expressionist playwright Georg Kaiser: Der Protagonist and Der Zar lässt sich photographieren. In 1926, Mr. Weill married the singer Lotte Lenya, who was to be the finest interpreter of his music.

Mr. Weill’s next collaborator was Bertolt Brecht, with whom he worked on The Threepenny Opera (1928), The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1929) and Happy End (1929), all of which use the diatonicism of commercial music as a weapon of social criticism. Mr. Weill also developed theater works without Brecht during the early 1930s, Die Bürgschaft and Der Silbersee (with Kaiser again).

In 1933, Mr. Weill left Germany for Paris, where he worked with Mr. Brecht again on the sung ballet The Seven Deadly Sins. Then in 1935 he moved to the U.S., where he cut loose from the European art-music tradition and devoted himself wholeheartedly to composing for the Broadway stage, intentionally subordinating aesthetic criteria to pragmatic and populist ones. Yet these works are still informed by his cultivated sense of character and theatrical form.

Kiddush, Mr. Weill’s only piece written for the synagogue, was commissioned by Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City and published in 1951.

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