Skip To Content
1900 - 1918

Musical Formation

Born into a religious and musical family, the young Kurt Weill's talent impresses his peers and teachers early on. He takes full advantage of the resources in his home town, Dessau (known as the “Bayreuth of the North”), to gain a thorough grounding in musical theater.

Read Text-Only Chronology
Read Text-Only Chronology


  • 2 March

    Born in Dessau, Germany

    Curt (later changed to Kurt) Julian born in Dessau, Germany to Albert Weill and Emma Ackermann Weill. He is the third of four children; Nathan (1898), Hans (1899), and Ruth (1901) are the others. The Weill family has lived in Germany since the 14th century. Both the Weill and Ackermann lineages include distinguished rabbis and musicians; Weill’s father is a cantor.

    • Kurt Weill and his mother, Emma

    • Weill's parents, Emma Ackermann and Albert Weill

    • The four Weill children: Hans, Nathan, Kurt (seated in front), and Ruth


  • Early March

    Kurt’s grandmother declares, “This boy is something special!”


  • Autumn

    Starts elementary school.

    Kurt begins studying the piano with his father around this time.


  • Spring

    Weill family moves to new quarters adjoining the new Dessau synagogue, which is still under construction.

    The new synagogue is consecrated in February 1908.


  • Autumn

    Begins Secondary School

    Begins secondary school at Herzogliche Friedrichs-Oberrealschule. Weill does well in his classes, especially literature and mathematics; his fellow students recall later that he does not push himself to be at the top of the class. Most boys take part in sports after school, but Kurt devotes as much time as his studies will allow to music. He has two other talents much appreciated by his classmates: mimicking his teachers; and starting discussions with teachers that distract them from giving exams.

    • Class picture (ca. 1915); Weill is seated at the far right, first row

    • Members of the Dessauer Feldkorps; Weill stands to the immediate right of the banner


  • Begins lessons with synagogue organist Franz Brückner

    There are conflicting accounts of the date, but at some point between 1909 and 1912, Kurt begins lessons with Marguerite Evelyn Schapiro, a conservatory-trained pianist.


  • First Compositions

    First preserved compositions: two songs, "Mi addir" (a Jewish wedding song) and "Es blühen zwei flammende Rosen" (Two flaming roses bloom)

    • Weill's first surviving composition, "Mi addir," shows a lack of experience writing musical notation

    • On the verso of "Mi addir," Weill composed the song fragment "Es blühen zwei flammende Rosen" (text author unknown)


  • July

    Visits Uncle Emil Ackermann and Aunt Bertha in Freiburg with his siblings. Weill’s first surviving letter dates from this trip.

  • Autumn

    Joins the Dessauer Feldkorps, a nationalist youth organization, with rank of Kundschafter (scout)


  • January

    Accompanies a fellow Kundschafter in a song titled “Für uns,” in what is probably his first formal public performance. During 1915, Kurt begins studying with the assistant conductor at the Dessau Ducal Theater, Albert Bing, who prepares him for advanced music study over the next three years, and furthers Kurt’s interest in the theater.

    Bing takes over Kurt's piano lessons and does much more: he introduces Kurt to much of the operatic repertoire and begins his first serious instruction in music theory, score reading, and composition. A former pupil of composer Hans Pfitzner, Bing becomes an important influence; he and his wife Edith do much to broaden Kurt's cultural horizons. In effect, Kurt becomes part of the Bing family.

  • September

    Composes a four-part a cappella choral setting of Emmanuel Geibel’s poem, “Gebet,” for Ruth’s confirmation

  • December

    Performs piano music by Chopin and Liszt in a school recital


  • Spring

    Composes Ofrah’s Lieder

    Begins setting modern translations of poems of the medieval poet Jehuda ha-Levi, resulting in a five-song cycle titled Ofrah’s Lieder. Weill later considered this work his true starting point as a composer.

    • First draft of the first song from Ofrah’s Lieder, "In meinem Garten steh'n zwei Rosen" (Two roses stand in my garden)

    • Second draft of "In meinem Garten steh'n zwei Rosen"

  • Spring

    Weill’s choral works performed at a school concert

    According to a fellow student, in 1916 Weill sent some compositions to a music publisher in Leipzig; the publisher suggested that he wait a few years and try again.


  • March

    Accompanies soprano Emilie Feuge in a recital in Cöthen that includes solo piano music, including a transcription of the "Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde

  • April

    Advances to New Level of Musical Training

    Begins taking more frequent lessons with Albert Bing, including studies in orchestration and conducting. Around this time, Kurt becomes a volunteer repetiteur (coach and accompanist) at the Ducal Theater in Dessau.

    • Albert Bing

    • Weill with Peter Bing, the son of Albert and Edith Bing

  • May

    Gives a lecture on Felix Mendelssohn to the entire high school, providing musical examples at the piano

  • 20 August

    Writes to Hans that he longs to “write down uninterruptedly all the things that make my head practically burst, to hear only music and be only music”

  • 23 August

    Begins trumpet lessons in hopes that if he is drafted, he will be assigned to a military band

    By this time, Weill has completely lost his nationalistic fervor and enthusiasm for the war. Fortunately, he is not drafted when he turns eighteen the following year.

  • December

    Composes Intermezzo, his only work for piano solo


  • February

    Completes exams and graduates from high school

  • 6 February

    Premiere of “Maikaterlied” and “Abendlied”

    First performance of two canons for two sopranos and piano, “Maikaterlied” (May tomcat song) and “Abendlied” (Evening song) with Clara Oßent and Gertrud Prinzler; Weill himself plays the piano.

    • Program from the 6 February concert in which Weill accompanied his two duets

    • First page of "Maikaterlied"

  • 12 March

    Attends a guest performance by the Royal Opera of Strauss’s Salome, conducted by the composer; he describes it as “a work of the greatest genius imaginable”

    Kurt reports to his brother Hans that at the end of the opera, he could do nothing but yell “Strauss!” over and over until Strauss himself came out for a curtain call.

Up next

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.