Weill: Der Protagonist

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COMPOSERS: Weill
LABELS: Capriccio
WORKS: Der Protagonist
PERFORMER: Robert Wörle, Amanda Halgrimson, Alexander Marco-Buhrmester, Corby Welch; German SO Berlin/John Mauceri
CATALOGUE NO: 60 086
It seems extraordinary that we have had to wait so long for a commercial recording of Der Protagonist. Weill’s first opera, completed barely a year after he had terminated his apprenticeship under Busoni, is a remarkably assured work which already demonstrates the kind of instinctive feeling for the theatre that was to stand him in such good stead for the rest of his career. The central theme of the work focuses on the problems of distinguishing reality from fantasy as manifested through the character of the Protagonist who acts out his fears and jealousies on stage. Thus the second of two pantomimes, choreographed in front of group of courtiers, culminates in a gruesome murder when the Protagonist stabs his sister after discovering that she has carried on a love affair behind his back.

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Despite the overtly expressionist nature of Georg Kaiser’s text, Weill’s setting is typical of advanced German music of the mid-Twenties in its objective treatment of the drama and in its highly chromatic and contrapuntal musical language, which is stylistically close to early Hindemith. Conductor John Mauceri steers a less frenzied course through the opening sections of the score than Andrew Davis in his concert performance at the Barbican last year. Nonetheless the performance is compelling, with distinguished playing from the German SO and an outstanding three-dimensional portrayal of the Protagonist from Robert Wörle.

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Now that Capriccio has plugged one of the vital gaps in the Weill discography, it must be hoped that it will soon turn its attention to the even more remarkable Royal Palace. Erik Levi