Weill: The Eternal Road (excerpts)

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WORKS: The Eternal Road (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Soloists; Children’s Radio Choir, Berlin; Ernst Senff Choir; Berlin RSO/Gerard Schwarz
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559402
Without doubt most attention will be gained by the world premiere recording of highlights from Kurt Weill’s The Eternal Road. This hybrid work, a mixture of grand opera, oratorio and biblical morality play, brought together the talents of Weill, the director Max Reinhardt and the playwright and novelist Franz Werfel for an unequivocally Zionist theatrical spectacular which traces a history of the Jewish people set against the contemporary context of Nazi persecution. First staged in New York in 1937, The Eternal Road provides an intriguing link between Weill’s hard-hitting Weimar Republic theatre works and his subsequent career as a successful composer of Broadway musicals. It’s impossible to make a balanced judgement on such an ambitious work, since this release offers less than half of its 40 scenes. Suffice it to say that Weill fashions the ambitious narrative, drawn from a plethora of biblical episodes, with his customary dramatic skill. But apart from a few moments of quintessential Weill – for instance Miriam’s haunting song with the refrain ‘the princess beheld in the rushes below’ – the music strikes me as uneven, using a surprisingly conventional and soft-centred harmonic language worlds away from the powerful works he composed in Germany. Fortunately Gerard Schwarz directs a strongly committed performance, with generally fine singing apart from the hapless tenor Ian DeNolfo whose pitching and tone leave much to be desired.