Heinz Sauerbaum/Wilhelm Bruckner-Ruggeberg/Lotte Lenya/Kurt Weill (Composer) Wei
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Description & Features+
Recording information: Hamburg (1956).
In the mid-'50s, Lotte Lenya, Kurt Weill's widow, contracted with Columbia Records to participate in a series of new recordings of her late husband's major German works. Here, she is featured as Jenny Hill in a 1956 studio cast album of Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny), Weill's 1930 musical written with lyricist Bertolt Brecht. That allows her to sing the show's most famous number, "Alabama-Song." (Although Mahagonny is presented in the original German, "Alabama-Song" was written and is sung in English.) It is an ensemble work, not a star vehicle, with the other principal parts handled by Heinz Sauerbaum (as Jimmy Mahoney) and Gisela Litz (as Leokadja Begbick). The orchestra is conducted by Wilhelm Brückner-Rüggeberg. As its title suggests, Mahagonny traces the founding of a fictional American city and its evolution into a sort of modern Sodom and Gomorrah with the characters being lowlife types such as gamblers and prostitutes. It is similar in many ways to its predecessor, The Threepenny Opera. But where that song-based work was more of a conventional Broadway-style musical, Mahagonny is more of an operetta, with extended recitatives and a larger orchestra playing more elaborate music. It is at once more ambitious and less accessible than The Threepenny Opera and consequently has been less often performed. This recording aims to be definitive and, with a talented cast and musicians, plus excellent sound courtesy of a Hamburg studio, it arguably achieves that goal. ~ William Ruhlmann
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