KURT WEILL: Composer in a Divided World by Ronald Taylor

KURT WEILL: Composer in a Divided World

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Another composer's life from Taylor (Robert Schumann, 1982, etc.), whose clichÉ-ridden prose delivers a leaden account of the fascinating Kurt Weill (1900-50). Taylor takes advantage of recently uncovered Weill family memorabilia and juvenilia, as well as of the outburst of scholarly interest in both the life and music of Weill that has occurred during the past 15 years. The author is at his best in creating the various sociohistorical contexts of Well's lifetime. His first chapter exploring Weill's Jewish family life as the son of a cantor provides a convenient reference point by which he measures Weill's student years during WW I; the associations with Brecht and Lotte Lenya in decadent postwar Berlin that culminated in the Dreigroschenoper and Mahogany; and the composer's later life in America. There, having divorced Lenya just before leaving Hitlerian Europe, Weill would remarry her, and would adapt his musical style to American tastes to create Lady in the Dark, Street Scene, and Lost in the Stars. Unfortunately, Taylor's musical comments are pedestrian and often needlessly complicate simple concepts: ""Such a procedure expresses the simple psychological reality that the interpolation of moments of diatonic consonance relaxes the tension inherent in dissonant, chromatic styles and allows the listener a passing glimpse of the familiar musical world in which he has grown up and which he accepts as by nature his own."" Factually precise but uninspired: a biography that synthesizes much recent scholarship but offers little in the way of psychological or musical insight.

Pub Date: Nov. 18th, 1992
Page count: 351pp
Publisher: Northeastern Univ. Press