SOMM RECORDINGS celebrates the mastery of a 20th-century original with superb new recordings of Kurt Weill’s Violin Concerto and Second Symphony by Tamás Kocsis and the Ulster Orchestra conducted by Jac van Steen.
Although Weill found fame in theatre-focused collaborations with Bertolt Brecht that produced the era-defining The Threepenny Opera, the onetime pupil of Ferruccio Busoni straddled the worlds of music-theatre, jazz, and the concert hall with music of daring aplomb and dazzling achievement
Dedicated to Joseph Szigeti, his five-movement Violin Concerto of 1924 also pays tribute to the ailing Busoni and sports discernible allusions to Stravinsky, Mahler and the potent popular music of Weimar Berlin’s cabaret clubs. A unique blend, as Robert Matthew-Walker comments in his authoritative booklet notes: “No comparable work had appeared before from any composer”.
Composed a decade later, the Second Symphony was premiered by Bruno Walter and the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. In three movements, “Weill’s contrapuntal mastery and his equally unselfconscious command of instrumentation present us with genuinely symphonic music, such as a 20th-century Haydn would have appreciated and enjoyed”.
Jac van Steen’s previous SOMM releases include acclaimed recordings of Mozart piano concertos with Peter Donohoe, Valerie Tryon and Mishka Rushdie Momen (SOMMCD 278-2), The Deeper the Blue, an intriguing exploration of colour and timbre in music featuring Vaughan Williams, Ravel, Dutilleux and Kenneth Hesketh (SOMMCD 275), and the International Classical Music Awards-nominated pairing of concertos by Albeniz and Mignone with Clélia Iruzun (SOMMCD 265).
The Ulster Orchestra has released world premiere recordings of Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia for Piano and Orchestra and two piano concertos by William Matthias with pianist Mark Bebbington (SOMMCD 246).
On This Recording
- Sostenuto – Allegro molto
- Allegro vivace
- I. Andante con moto
- IIa. Notturno: Allegro un poco tenuto
- IIb. Cadenza: Moderato
- IIc. Serenata: Allegretto
- III. Allegro molto, un poco agitato
Symphony No. 2
Violin Concerto, Op. 12
“No one ever needs to convince me of Kurt Weill’s importance in the great scheme of music. Not just in the world of musical theatre, where I have long been an advocate of his American work – not least because the assimilation was so extraordinary – but in the dramatically shifting landscape of European music between the wars. His Concerto for violin, wind instruments, percussion and bass is a startling case in point. There is nothing – nothing – like this piece in the repertoire of that period (1924) and beyond… The Second Symphony, while unmistakably the work of the same composer, is more mainstream and characterised by a motoric urgency that might be seen as an all-pervasive metaphor for Weill’s flight from Nazi Germany.… an uncompromising all-Weill pairing.” —Edward Seckerson, Gramophone
“This recording by the Ulster Orchestra under Jac van Steen, with Tamás Kocsis as the soloist in the violin concerto, captures the edge in Weill’s music and is alert to the appearances of music-hall sounds. Either of these works could be profitably included on any symphonic program, and it is to be hoped that this recording will help make that happen more often.” —James Manheim, AllMusic