PERFORMER: Ingrid Schmithüsen (soprano); Ensemble Contrasts Cologne/Celso Antunes
CATALOGUE NO: 67 011
The ballet pantomime Zaubernacht was Kurt Weill’s earliest theatre composition. Premiered with some success at Berlin’s Theater am Kurfürstendamm in 1922, when Weill was still a composition student of Busoni, it was subsequently heard in the USA three years later. However, as with the opera Royal Palace, the performance materials of the work were subsequently lost, and this world-premiere recording presents a reconstruction of Weill’s original chamber instrumentation on the basis of details that exist in a surviving piano rehearsal score.
Although any reconstruction of this nature involves a certain degree of conjecture, Meirion Bowen has done a marvellous and convincing job in restoring this work to public circulation, and the performance from Ensemble Contrasts is totally compelling. Given the highly inventive and varied nature of the music, it’s also clear that the scenario, in which a magic spell brings children’s toys and various characters from familiar fairy-tale story books to life, fired Weill’s imagination. Among the highlights are the magical closing passage and a sequence of dance numbers, ranging from elegant waltzes and a gavotte to a foxtrot and a rumbustious can-can. Although the strong influence of Busoni pervades much of the music, it’s interesting to note that even at this early stage in his career, there are numerous harmonic and rhythmic figurations that presage the mature Weill. Erik Levi