Kurt Weill’s first Broadway show has an intriguing score, unlike anything else produced on Broadway around the time of its premiere in 1936. Now there is a new way to hear it, thanks to a symphonic orchestration by composer Gene Pritsker. Pritsker’s work draws on Tim Carter’s award-winning new critical edition of the show (2012), expanding Weill’s original pit band into a symphony orchestra and removing all vocal lines, reassigning melodies from voices to instruments. Pritsker has removed some numbers from the original score to create the Symphonic Suite, but audience favorites such as “Mon Ami, My Friend,” “The Cowboy Song,” and “Song of the Goddess” remain; the haunting “Johnny’s Song” closes the Suite just as it closes the theater version.
Conductor Kristjan Järvi is developing an affinity for Weill; he led Die sieben Todsünden with Angelika Kirchschlager as Anna I earlier this year and now takes on one of Weill’s American works, albeit one composed shortly after he left Europe. The MDR Sinfonieorchester is likewise no stranger to Weill, having given many performances over the years at the Kurt Weill Fest Dessau; in 2014 they delivered another premiere: the “Song-Suite for Violin and Orchestra“–arranged by Paul Bateman and showcased by Daniel Hope–which has become a reliable crowd-pleaser. The combination of Weill, Pritsker, Järvi, and the MDR Symphony Orchestra promises great things. The program also features a new piano concerto composed and performed by Italian jazz pianist Stefano Bollani, the “Concerto Azzurro.” You can hear the complete concert on the radio, broadcast over MDR Klassik and MDR Kultur, on 8 October.
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