Weill: Zaubernacht

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COMPOSERS: Weill
LABELS: CPO
ALBUM TITLE: Weill: Zaubernacht
WORKS: Zaubernacht
PERFORMER: Ania Vegry (soprano); Arte Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CPO777767-2

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The pantomime Zaubernacht, depicting a familiar scenario in which a magic spell brings children’s toys and various well-known fairy-tale characters to life, enjoyed a moderately successful premiere in Berlin in 1922, when the 22-year-old Kurt Weill was still a composition student of Busoni. It was subsequently staged three years later in the US, but was never revived after this time since the orchestral materials were lost. In 2002 Meirion Bowen devised an effective reconstruction of Weill’s original instrumentation on the basis of performance instructions that existed in a surviving piano rehearsal score, and this arrangement was then recorded by Ensemble Contrasts on the Capriccio label. Bowen’s work, however, was superseded by the unexpected discovery eight years ago of a set of orchestral parts to Zaubernacht which had been deposited in a safe in the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University.

Zaubernacht’s ironic and neo-classical musical language bears a strongly Busonian imprint. There are also anticipations of the later Weill in a highly attractive sequence of dance movements including a sentimental waltz, an elegant gavotte and an upbeat foxtrot. The Arte Ensemble players enjoy themselves hugely in this entertaining score, projecting the music with wit and a good deal of technical sophistication.

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Erik Levi