ALBUM TITLE: Weil
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Lady in the Dark – Symphonic Nocturne (arr. Bennett)
PERFORMER: Bournemouth SO/Marin Alsop
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557481
Few compositions provide a more vivid reflection of the turbulent political environment in Germany during 1920s and 30s than Kurt Weill’s two symphonies. The highly-charged First Symphony (1921) seems to mirror all the turmoil and suffering that enveloped the country in the aftermath of the First World War, whilst its successor, composed in 1933-34 after Weill was forced into exile by the Nazis, offers a disturbing mixture of resignation and defiance against the rising tide of fascism. Both works have been well (served on disc, with the pioneering if somewhat gruff version from Gary Bertini and the BBC Symphony Orchestra on EMI Matrix having stood the test of time. But this new recording from Marin Alsop and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra boasts immeasurably superior sound and far better playing. Indeed Alsop’s account of the First must be regarded as the most exciting and convincing in the current catalogue, with the conductor managing to ‘ring intensity and lucidity to the Symphony’s somewhat sprawling structure.
In the better-known Second, Alsop faces stiffer competition from the Berlin Philharmonic under Mariss Jansons, also on EMI. No doubt the Berliners have a slight edge over their British colleagues when it comes to delivering the frenetic semiquaver passages of the outer movements. Yet Alsop plumbs greater depths in the central Largo, her slow and sombre tempo conveying exactly the right sense of foreboding and horror at the impending demise of European civilisation. Erik Levi