Weill: Die Bürgschaft

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WORKS: Die Bürgschaft
PERFORMER: Frederick Burchinal, Margaret Thompson, Dale Travis; Westminster Choir, Spoleto Festival Orchestra USA/Julius Rudel
Die Bürgschaft was the last and most extended music-theatre work Weill composed in Germany before Hitler came to power. First staged in Berlin in 1932, it enjoyed considerable critical acclaim though its subject matter, charting the disastrous consequences that result when a bond of trust between the two leading protagonists in the drama is corrupted by greed and power, proved to be too controversial in the light of the turbulent political situation. Not surprisingly, the work was soon banished from German theatres, and the few attempts to revive it in the postwar era foundered on the misconceptions that the libretto by Brecht’s designer Caspar Neher was inadequate, and that Weill’s sober and lengthy score lacked the immediacy of Mahagonny and the Dreigroschenoper.


This recording, made concurrently with performances given at the 1999 Spoleto Festival, triumphantly repudiates these views. Although the work may indeed have its longueurs, these are far outweighed by the sheer power and urgency of Weill’s music, which achieves a shattering dramatic impact at the end of the final act. This section, in which the chorus plays a crucial role of both commentary and direct action, is particularly impressive, with conductor Julius Rudel demonstrating marvellous control in the pacing of the drama. Elsewhere, however, there are evident imperfections in some of the solo singing that could prove frustrating after repeated listening, although many will surely be prepared to put up with these for the sake of hearing a work which Weill unhesitatingly regarded as one of his finest. Erik Levi