Instructor: Neil Levin, Anne E. Leibowitz Visiting Professor-in-Residence in Music
Much of Kurt Weill’s theatrical, operatic, film, and concert music is widely familiar. It continues to fascinate in its sui generis juxtapositions of styles and often seeming artistic contradictions. Less known, however, are consciously incorporated musical reflections of his pride in Jewish heritage, his Jewish persona, his early exposure to cantorial and other synagogue melos, his related inner conflicts, and his ultimate dedication to Jewish causes. This course will explore general European as well as Jewish/Judaic influences on his aggregate oeuvre. It will consider exemplary, religiously impartial, as well as deliberately Jewishly-related works in their political, historical, cultural, and social contexts, while highlighting his evocations of Hebrew poetry, traditional liturgical melodies and chants, and Jewish folk motifs.
Weill’s monumental Jewish historical-biblical stage creation, The Eternal Road, will be examined in depth, along with his two subsequent but little-recognized Jewish pageants and various other Jewishly-influenced pieces. These will also be considered in comparison with his better known, universally-themed works such as The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Der Protagonist, The Three-Penny Opera, Street Scene, and his stunning violin concerto—along with some of his American musical theatre and film scores. Use will be made of his personal and professional correspondence, key documents, and biographical and critical sources. Class sessions will be richly illustrated with recordings—many of them still archival and otherwise unavailable to the public; and there will be ample opportunity for class discussion.