Violin Concerto; Symphony No. 2, ‘Symphonic Fantasy’
Tamás Kocsis (violin); Ulster Orchestra/Jac van Steen
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD 280 57:25 mins
Kurt Weill’s Second Symphony uses a fast-slow-fast structure and a granular level of thematic development that was the modus operandi of Haydn, Mozart et al. The work was composed in 1933, commissioned by Princesse Edmond de Polignac, whom Weill, having fled Germany when Hitler came to power, had met in Paris. It’s difficult not to interpret the dark and brooding motifs as emblematic of that turbulent period; the opening off-beat melodies are reincarnated in the Allegro vivace as a strident march. The Ulster Orchestra gets into every nook and cranny of this neglected piece (the brass are particularly outstanding).
Weill’s earlier Violin Concerto (1924) is written for an ‘Orchestra of Wind Instruments’ also featuring percussion and double bass. It bears the hallmark of Weill’s studies with Busoni, with some unusual colouring (the brusque xylophone in the ‘Notturno’, for example) and exploratory use of harmony. At 24, Weill’s iconic Berlin-cabaret sound is already identifiable: the dance-like flute solo in the ‘Serenata’; and the rollicking finale. Soloist Tamás Kocsis, leader of the Ulster Orchestra, is superb throughout this pristine recording.