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Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, October 2011

With Threepenny you get the eleven-cut original cast recordings from 1928–30, which give you some definitive versions of around half the work, a 1929 arrangement for winds, selected foreign language versions from the era, and some instrumental dance arrangements. The second disk covers a selection of theater songs from three other productions as noted.

As far as a listening experience goes, one must keep in mind that especially on the first disk there are multiple versions of the most popular songs from the opera, all interesting but subject to a certain amount of repetition.

Beyond that however, this is is something all Weill admirers must hear and appreciate if they are to understand what a modern production must try and realize. Weill was an exceptional melodist but he was also a musical revolutionary in the way he adopted the venacular of the day. The powerful and not to forget, dangerous subjects of the songs and their subversive (to the Nazi thugs) criticism of the world around them are delivered fearlessly and with the kind of dramatic thrust that the theater-cabaret of the times encouraged. A special vibrato on the part of singers and instrumentalists, proper jazz-pop inflection by the instrumentalists, and a kind of fervent conviction are all up front on these recordings.

The sound is what it is—these are 78s that for the worst sort of reasons became rather rare by the end of WWII. The sources used for mastering are all in respectable shape, but one mustn’t expect holographic digital clones of the reality of that era. This is as close as you’ll come to that, though, barring the invention of a time machine. Essential listening!

George Dorris
Ballet Review, October 2011

One reason for The Three Penny Opera’s extraordinary success in 1928 was the ways its classically trained modernist composer adapted current dance rhythms to Bertolt Brecht’s lyrics. Whether forceful or sly, these were words and tunes that lodge insistently in the memory and won’t go away. No wonder these songs were immediately snapped up by dance bands and heard on records from Paris to Moscow.

Fascinating, with good notes… © 2011 Ballet Review, September 2011

There is a great deal of music here…There are dance arrangements and woodwind arrangements as well as varying vocal stylings, with Lotte Lenya’s being in retrospect the most authentic but certainly not the only ones worth hearing. The entire first CD is devoted to The Threepenny Opera, but the second disc is equally interesting. It includes, among other things, no fewer than five versions of “Surabaya-Johnny” from Happy End, one of them featuring Lenya singing as Weill himself plays a piano arrangement that he made of this and five other songs. There are other rarities on this CD as well, including two songs Weill wrote to further the Allies’ war effort against the Nazis and several excerpts, including a medley, from Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. …these CDs provide an opportunity, “through a glass darkly” (as it were), to hear Weill’s music, well-known and less-known, performed when it was fresh rather than established, under Weill’s own auspices or with his overt or tacit approval. These discs are a window into the distant past—more than 80 years in some cases—and as such cannot and should not be held to the quality standards of modern recordings. Rather, they should be seen and heard as important documentation of significant 20th-century music—performances against which it is quite fair to compare more-modern, better-sounding ones that may have fewer rough edges but cannot possibly match these for authenticity.

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