Kurt Weill is still considered primarily as a theatre composer - something that Weill would likely have viewed himself. His concert works are rarely performed in comparison, though the recording industry has been kinder to him in this regard. The First Symphony was a student composition in one movement and shows considerable promise. It had been lost and only surfaced in the 1950s when his widow Lotte Lenya placed advertisements in the newspapers. Symphony No. 2 was premiered in Amsterdam by the Concertgebouw under Bruno Walter soon after Weill completed it and is a much more accomplished work in three movements: fast, slow, fast.
"Michel Swierczewski gives the symphonies dignified, powerful readings ... his phrasing is supple and considered. And in all three works the Gulbenkian orchestra plays with great beauty."
New York Times
The First Symphony was a student composition in one movement and shows considerable promise. It had been lost and only surfaced in the 1950s when his widow Lotte Lenya placed advertisements in the newspapers.
Swierczewski makes a good case for this dramatic, if rather episodic, work, and the performance and recording here are also very good.
The Symphony No. 2 unlike its predecessor was premiered in Amsterdam by the Concertgebouw under Bruno Walter soon after Weill completed it and it was repeated in New York the same year. Yet, since that time it languished until the 1980s when it finally gained a toehold in the repertoire. It is a much more accomplished and attractive work than the First Symphony and is in three movements: fast, slow, fast.
Separating the two symphonies is some of Weill's most familiar music taken from his hit Threepenny Opera. It was the distinguished conductor Otto Klemperer who commissioned Weill to make a suite for winds from the theatre work. The Suite presented here has taken on a life of its own and has provided wind ensembles with some of the most delicious music of the composer. More than the two symphonies, the Kleine Dreigroschenmusik with its jazz rhythms, and use of such "popular" instruments as saxophone, banjo, and guitar, shows the side of the composer that is unique and that will forever remain in one's mind as being "Weill". This includes "Mack, the Knife", but much else besides. Swierczewski and his Gulbenkian instrumentalists capture the infectious spirit of this music very well.