Weill: Die sleben Todsunden; Symphony No. 2

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Weill
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Die sleben Todsunden; Symphony No. 2
PERFORMER: Teresa Stratas; Lyon National Opera Orchestra/Kent Nagano
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-17068-2
The Brecht-Weill classics are inseparable from the smoky timbre and barbed seductions of Lotte Lenya’s voice. Yet the challenge of interpretations to match hers — but at Weill’s intended soprano pitch — is always there. Teresa Stratas, a contender favoured by Lenya and with impressive Weill recordings already to her credit, is in with a sporting chance. As an outstanding Lulu she has the interpretative gifts required for Anna I, the schizoid narrator in The Seven Deadly Sins. But much is adrift in this recording. She is best in the big numbers, but where is the expression in the lower voice, where is her feeling for Brecht’s text ?

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The ‘supporting’ male voice quartet is weak and unaware of the edge of the volcano. Kent Nagano’s band gives us second-rate ballet music, not the pulse and inner dynamo of Weill’s louchely acidic cabaret style. Compare Herbert Kegel on the superbly idiomatic 1967 DG recording with Gisela May (at Lenya pitch). Something of the disappointment of this Stratas version may lie in its origin as soundtrack for Peter Sellars’s film of this hybrid 1933 ‘ballet with a song’, a proof that visual high jinks cannot substitute for deficiencies in musical performance.

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There’s no question that Nagano’s fine account of the contemporaneous Symphony No. 2 is on an altogether higher plane. Patrick Camegy