318

Music for a While: Weill Variations

Eyal Hareuveni By

Sign in to view read count
Any ensemble with a female vocalist performing a program based on the songs of composer Kurt Weill calls for immediate comparisons to such iconic interpreters of the composer's repertoire by actress/vocalist Lotte Lenya (who was married to Weill) and actress/vocalist Uta Lemper. But Music for a While is not afraid of such obvious references. The Norwegian quintet features some of the most open-minded musicians on the fertile Norwegian scene—actress/vocalist Tora Augestad, multi-instrumentalist and leader of the Balkan-tinged Farmers Market Stian Carstensen, trumpeter Mathias Eick, tubaist Martin Taxt, and drummer Pål Hausken (who also plays with In The Country)—and their impressive resumes promise an ensemble that can easily stand comparison with other interpreters of Weill's innovative work.

Music for a While follows Weill's career, beginning with his German period in the 1920s and his collaboration with Bertold Brecht (including songs from the 1928 opera The Threepenny Opera), moving to his years in France after the Nazis took power in Germany, where he composed a number of chansons, and finally to Broadway and Hollywood, where he wrote some of American musicals' seminal songs. Accordingly, the songs are performed in German, French and English. The ensemble does not try to deliver radical interpretations, preferring to color these time-tested gems with its personal touch.

The casting of Augestad is brilliant, conveying a wide spectrum of feelings with an arresting charisma, intelligence, playfulness and charm. She can be fragile and suggestive on her reserved delivery of "Ballade Von Der Sexuallen Hårigkeit," ironic on "Seeråuberjenny," or detached and sorrowful on "Mackie Messer," all from The Threepenny Opera. Her performance of the tango-based "Youkali" is sober, reflecting on Weill's wish to escape from Europe to the States (the Youkali, or land of our desires) but suggesting that there really is no such place. On "Surabaya Johnny" and "Je ne T'aime Pas," she alternates cleverly between anger, reconciliation and ache over lost love.

Carstensen's accordion and Eick's trumpet engulf Augestad vocals sensitively, always stressing her masterful vocal delivery. On their short solos they sound as if they are extending Augestad implied feelings, turning them into miniature musings on the lyrics. Carstensen's steel guitar adds a heartbroken country ballad touch to "September Song" and "Ballade vom ertrunkenen Mådchen," but the warm breathy sound of Eick's trumpet and Augestad's reserved vocals keep it from sliding into sentimentality. The ensemble shines on their touching and meditative cover of the only non-Weill composition, Hanas Eisler's "An den kleinen Radioapparat," and clearly enjoys assisting Augestad in taking "Alabama Song" by storm.

Hopefully more of Weill's music will be coming from this fine ensemble in the future.


Track Listing: Ballade Von Der Sexuallen H

Personnel: Tora Augestad: vocal; Stian Carstensen: accordion, steel guitar, banjo; Mathias Eick: trumpet; Martin Taxt: tuba; P

Title: Weill Variations | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Grappa


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Harmony of Difference CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read No Answer CD/LP/Track Review No Answer
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 18, 2017
Read Agrima CD/LP/Track Review Agrima
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 18, 2017
Read Bright Yellow with Bass CD/LP/Track Review Bright Yellow with Bass
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 18, 2017
Read Kurrent CD/LP/Track Review Kurrent
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: October 17, 2017
Read Duets CD/LP/Track Review Duets
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 17, 2017
Read "Sopranoville: New Works for the Prepared and Non-Prepared Saxophone" CD/LP/Track Review Sopranoville: New Works for the Prepared and Non-Prepared...
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 13, 2017
Read "Live In Brooklyn" CD/LP/Track Review Live In Brooklyn
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 23, 2017
Read "Drama" CD/LP/Track Review Drama
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 4, 2017
Read "Minor Step" CD/LP/Track Review Minor Step
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 19, 2017
Read "Soul Garden" CD/LP/Track Review Soul Garden
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 29, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.