Kurt WEILL: violin concerto

Edited: October 27, 2022, 4:49 PM · I don't think I've seen any references to Kurt Weill's concerto on V.com, and I'm wondering what fellow participants think about it. I think at first it's a bit daunting to the listener, with its tough orchestration for wind, percussion and double bass. The violin is not, as one might initially expect, Lotte Lenya (or Teresa Stratas) with a fiddle, and it takes a few listenings to reveal the lyricism, jazz and ironic schmaltz. Generally, the concerto is much more atonal/percussive/crunchy.

I like the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra version, with their concertmaster, Gordan Nikolic, as soloist. It is also nicely filmed.

Replies (12)

October 27, 2022, 4:48 PM · It’s not a good piece of music.
October 27, 2022, 5:57 PM · Are you saying it’s vile?
October 27, 2022, 6:00 PM · I found myself wanting to hear the violin part alone and get rid of the accompaniment.
October 27, 2022, 6:48 PM · It’s not a work that charms the ear quickly, if at all. Weill’s concerto takes several hearings, and it won’t turn into something suddenly lovely. You won’t find yourself humming it like “Surabaya Johnny” or the Alabama Song; it is not Max Bruch or Paganini for the twentieth century: it’s demanding. Please try it again: to be honest, as a listener I found it difficult to get to grips with at first, more so than the Berg concerto. It requires some persistence.
Edited: October 27, 2022, 7:13 PM · It has a more intimate feel than many concertos I'm familiar with (I've only listened to it once so far). But I particularly enjoyed the lovely duet passage for the first flute and violin (pizzicato). There are a lot of shifts in meter and triplet and straight sixteenth passages throughout that give it a sense of drive and forward motion.

I'd like to listen to it again. It's challenging for a violin to play with woodwinds as they are breathing in their phrasing. I think we have to make an extra effort to lean into notes to simulate those breaths.

October 27, 2022, 8:31 PM · I performed the work with the Baylor University wind symphony a number of years ago. It is a great example of German expressionism and 12 tone composition. It definitely is very challenging for the violinist, and I welcomed the challenge. It's like Schoenberg's later works, it is beautiful in its sometimes ugliness and is a perfect reflection of the times. I should get around to putting my performance up on Youtube sometime. Concerning Schenberg's violin concerto, some violinist said that you would need 5 fingers to play it and Schoenberg replied, "I can wait."
October 28, 2022, 2:46 AM · Raymond, you make a good point about phrasing for the violinist set against a predominantly wind ensemble. When I have sung (chorally) with an orchestra accompanying I always want to say 'But they don't let us breathe!' Paradoxically, playing in orchestra accompanying a choir my thought is 'Can't these people keep up?'

Bruce - I'm looking forward to your recording with the Baylor ensemble!

October 28, 2022, 3:20 AM · Two minutes in I was already thinking "huh?". Then I tried Elisabeth Glab's performance with the Ensemble Musique Oblique conducted by Philippe Herreweghe. The faster tempo made far greater sense to me.
October 28, 2022, 7:54 AM · I dig it, thanks for the reference Richard!
October 28, 2022, 8:24 AM · Thrilled to hear it Jean!
October 29, 2022, 7:14 AM · Marty & Buri: Your comments were both Curt.
October 29, 2022, 9:25 AM · I must be an anomaly because I have loved this concerto ever since I first heard it as a young student. The only Weill music I knew at the time was "Alabama song" so it was a bit of a shock, but I think there is a relationship between his more popular music and the concerto. I did perform it some years later, with piano, at one of my university recitals, but honestly I have been working on it for decades, and it never gets easier, it is pretty un-violinistic. I am not generally a fan of atonal music, but this piece has some unique quality that draws me in.

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