Kurt Weill: Mahagonny

Kurt Weill Mahagonny

Kurt Weill: Mahagonny

Year of composition:
based on the text of the Kurt Weill Edition
Kurt Weill
Giselher Schubert
Bertolt Brecht
Instrumentation details:
1st clarinet in Bb
2nd clarinet in Bb (+bass cl(Bb))
alto saxophone in Eb
1st trumpet in C
2nd trumpet in C
1st violin
2nd violin
Table of contents:
1. I. Mahagonny-Song / Kleiner Marsch
2. Alabama-Song / Marsch / Vivace
3. II. Mahagonny-Song / Vivace assai
4. Benares-Song / Sostenuto (Choral)
5. III. Mahagonny-Song / Vivace assai
6. Finale
Appendix: Erste Fassung des Finales (First Version of Finale)
based on the text of the critically edited full score, Kurt Weill Edition, Ser. I, Vol. 3
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Work introduction

The Songspiel is the first of Weill’s two Mahagonny works – the second being the three-act opera, The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. It was the result of a commission from the organizers of the Deutsches Kammermusikfestival (a festival of modern German chamber music) – among them, Hindemith – who asked Weill for something suitable for a programme of short operas for chamber ensemble. Weill’s first idea was to set a scene from King Lear or Antigone; but as he and Brecht were already planning the Mahagonny opera, they decided on the Songspiel as a “style study”. The order of the Mahagonny-Gesänge was changed in the interest of continuity, and a short epilogue was added (but no linking dialogue, as some authorities have wrongly suggested). A simple staging was then worked out in collaboration with Caspar Neher, who designed a series of projections. The number of singers was determined by the resources available for the Baden-Baden programme, and the apportioning of the texts between the singers reflected purely musical considerations. It was not until after Weill had completed the full score that the six singers acquired their fictional names. Even so, neither the texts nor the production implied any individual characterisation. Significantly, the scores produced for rehearsal purposes specified formal evening attire for all the singers. However ironic the intention, that requirement precisely conformed with the music’s almost Stravinskian stylisations.

David Drew

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