A “Fellowship of Adventurous Musicians,”
The Knights Bring Weill’s First Symphony
to Carnegie Hall

The Knights in performance at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, conducted by Eric Jacobsen. Photo: Fadi Kheir.


A surge of recent performances and recordings has brought to the fore Kurt Weill’s achievements as a symphonic composer. A February performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall by The Knights made a strong case for Weill’s first symphony (Symphonie in einem Satz), demonstrating that it deserves just as much attention as Weill’s second symphony (Fantaisie Symphonique).

Weill composed the first symphony very early in his career, just before beginning the studies with Ferruccio Busoni that would have such a transformative effect on his art. Even so, it far transcends the category of “student work” in its sophisticated command of musical form and in the remarkable orchestral palette it employs. In a 1927 review of Weill’s output, musicologist Heinrich Strobel observed that although it still employed the stylistic devices of Romanticism, the symphony for Weill “marks the first contact with the tendencies of his time, which will become decisive for later works.”

The match with The Knights proved fortunate. The ensemble’s self-description as “a fellowship of adventurous musicians” revealed itself in the musical camaraderie and sense of adventure brought to their performance of the symphony, a work described by Kurt Gottschalk in Bachtrack as one of “broad strokes and deep, Mahlerian currents.” In his review posted on blogcritics.org, Jon Sobel enthused that this “strong performance,” led by Co-Artistic Director and Conductor Eric Jacobsen, “allowed Weill’s early flair for orchestration to shine.” Sobel continued: “Colors were sharply delineated, electric energy corralled with gusto. The chorale-like quiet section sounded especially magnetic in context, and the viola soloist acquitted himself marvelously.” In so successfully realizing Weill’s symphony, The Knights joined other chamber orchestras that have done so recently, including The Swedish Chamber Orchestra, conducted by HK Gruber (recorded on the BIS label). However, there is no evidence to suggest that Weill preferred such reduced forces, leaving the way clear for orchestras of all sizes to seek out its rewards in performance.

Critical Praise For Kurt Weills Musiktheater

A unanimous chorus of critical acclaim has greeted this German translation of Stephen Hinton’s magisterial work, published by Suhrkamp Verlag in December. Thomas Irmer of Theater der Zeit describes it as a “monumental study” that truly “captures Kurt Weill’s music theater.” In Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Nils Grosch declares it “remarkable” that, even with all its “scholarly care and accuracy, the result is a pleasantly readable, always clear and transparent text that does not get lost in analytical detail.”

Berliner Ensemble production of
Die Dreigroschenoper travels to
Australia’s Adelaide Festival

“Four years shy of its centenary, The Threepenny Opera finally has a production that not only befits a masterpiece but qualifies it as such.”

Read the full review in Limelight.


Featured Upcoming Events

1 April – Fantaisie symphonique (Symphony No.2)

Norddeutscher Rundfunk (Staatsorchester Braunschweig; Garrett Keast, conductor)

Weill’s second symphony continues its rise in the repertory with this March 2024 performance recorded in concert and available for streaming beginning 1 April. 

2 April – Das Berliner Requiem

Maison de la Radio et de la Musique (Chœur de Radio France; Ensemble Intercontemporain; Sofi Jeannin, conductor.)

Plans for this major French performance of Weill’s 1929 work commissioned by Frankfurt Radio were disrupted by the pandemic. The program is at last going forward, including works as well by Britten (The Children’s Crusade), Schoenberg (Friede auf Erden), and the premiere of a work by Helen Neeves (commissioned by Radio France).

12 April – Die sieben Todsünden

Carnegie Hall (Wallis Giunta, soprano; Ensemble Modern; amarcord; HK Gruber, conductor)

In a dream team line-up, the long-established Weill partnership between HK Gruber and Germany’s Ensemble Modern is joined by Wallis Giunta, proven many times over as one of the great interpreters of Die sieben Todsünden. Vocal ensemble amarcord travels from Germany as well to reprise its role as The Family in this New York premiere of the new fifteen-player version of the work prepared by Gruber and Christian Muthspiel. 

19 April – Street Scene (staged excerpts)

L’Académie de l’Opéra national de Paris (Yshani Perinpanayagam, conductor; Ted Huffman, director)

Conductor Yshani Perinpanayagam brings fresh perspective to a production calling upon the rising talents of L’Académie in a production by adventurous American stage director Ted Huffman. Further performances 21, 23, 25, 27 April. 

For a full listing of upcoming events, view the Kurt Weill events calendar.

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