Kurt Weill: An Illustrated Life

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9780300072846: Kurt Weill: An Illustrated Life
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Kurt Weill―the famed composer of The Threepenny Opera, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Knickerbocker Holiday, One Touch of Venus, Lost in the Stars, and many other musical works―led a life as rich and complex as the music for which he is so justly acclaimed. This engaging and lavishly illustrated book draws on a wealth of previously unexplored written and pictorial material to present a biography of Weill that is the most up-to-date and balanced ever written.

Jürgen Schebera explores the many phases of Weill's life, from his childhood as the son of a cantor in the Jewish section of Dessau, Germany, to his renunciation of Germany in 1933, his emigration to America in 1935, and his premature death there in 1950. Schebera describes Weill's rise to prominence during the Weimar Republic, when he created brilliant orchestral and chamber music and became a leading operatic innovator; his marriage, divorce, and remarriage to the famed actress Lotte Lenya; his escape from Nazi Germany, exile in France, and move to America; his collaboration with such famed writers and lyricists as Georg Kaiser, Bertolt Brecht, Maxwell Anderson, Moss Hart, Ira Gershwin, S.J. Perelman, and Ogden Nash; and his efforts in the United States to aid the mobilization for war. He presents fascinating information about Weill's musical creations: an anti-war musical (Johnny Johnson); a biblical drama (The Eternal Road); his first American song "hit," "September Song;" a Kiddush for cantor, chorus, and organ; a new genre of Broadway opera (Street Scene); a musical tragedy (Lost in the Stars); and many other musical ventures in New York and Hollywood. Schebera contends that it is pointless to argue the relative merits of Weill's music from his European and American periods, as many critics have done, for as Weill himself said, "I have never acknowledged the difference between 'serious' music and 'light' music. There is only good music and bad music." And, in fact, the current international renaissance of Kurt Weill's works attests to the beauty, originality, and variety of the music he composed throughout his career.

First published in Germany to enthusiastic reviews, this English edition adds new information and illustrations to the earlier work.

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Language Notes:

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German

From Booklist:

Kurt Weill was a significant trendsetter in dramatic music, virtually creating the popular musical drama whose music supports dialogue and plot. He studied music first with his father, a Jewish cantor, then in Berlin with the pianist-composer Busoni. He wrote songs, choral works, chamber music, and symphonies before turning to the theater and becoming, eventually, world-famous for his collaborations with Bertolt Brecht, especially The Threepenny Opera and the singspiel, The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, which provoked riots at its premier. His wife, Lotte Lenya, starred in most of his productions. Fleeing the Nazis, Weill came to the U.S. in 1935 and collaborated with Maxwell Anderson (e.g., Knickerbocker Holiday with its "September Song," and Lost in the Stars) and with Moss Hart and Ira Gershwin (Lady in the Dark, which gave Weill financial independence). Profusely illustrated with photographs, playbills, and sheet music art, Schebera's biography seems definitive and well-rounded as it discusses all of Weill's important musical and dramatic achievements. Alan Hirsch

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9780300060553: Kurt Weill: An Illustrated Life

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ISBN 10:  0300060556 ISBN 13:  9780300060553
Publisher: Yale University Press, 1995
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