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Kurt Weill: Eternal Road (Highlights) (Milken Archive of American Jewish Music)

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 30, 2003
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This world-premiere recording of scenes from Kurt Weill's rediscoverd masterpiece The Eternal Road brings to life a major 20th-century work that was a sensation of the 1937 New York season. Originally conceived as a biblical pageant, a profound music-dr

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This is an extraordinary, unique work: part opera, part oratorio, part Broadway musical, part pageant. The German libretto by Franz Werfel (the original title actually means "The Road of Promise") was translated by Ludwig Lewisohn; the story combines Biblical and modern Jewish history, messianic faith, and national politics. Set in a contemporary synagogue where the Jews are hiding from a pogrom, its four acts are centered on specific Biblical themes, which the group discusses and re-enacts throughout the night; at the end, the destruction of the ancient Temple and the group's present-day deportation melt together, as a messianic voice promises deliverance in Zion. Conceived by the promoter and Zionist activist Meyer Weisgal to awaken the world to Hitler's persecution of the Jews by juxtaposing their historical and present travails, it was premiered in New York in 1937 to critical acclaim. But it closed after 153 performances, never to be revived. No wonder: described as "the most formidable project" ever undertaken by any "undaunted group" of Jewish artists, it required an unprecedented expenditure of personnel and material and, though heavily cut even before the premiere, ran for some six hours.

Weill's music is fascinating. Alternating between cantorial liturgy, classical fugues and showtunes, it displays every aspect of his background and multi-faceted style. Son of a German cantor, his earliest works, written at age 12 and 13, were setting of Hebrew texts, but later in life, his Jewish consciousness seems to have been political rather than religious. Of all the European emigrée-composers, he was perhaps the most successful: master of operatic as well as cabaret-style, the Broadway musical became his natural habitat.

This recording offers a selection of scenes featuring recitatives, arias, ensembles and choruses. The music ranges from simple to sophisticated, from mournful, cantorial lamentations to affecting love duets, hymns, marches with trumpets and drums, dances, celestial choruses, and genuine, lovely cabaret songs. The most substantial and moving excerpt is the Death of Moses, preceded by his presentation of the Commandments. The singing is never less than good, frequently excellent. The record makes one long to hear the music in its entirety. --Edith Eisler
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 30, 2003)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Milken Archive
  • Run Time: 73 minutes
  • ASIN: B0000C508I
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,752 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Timothy Kearney VINE VOICE on January 7, 2004
Format: Audio CD
This is a recording that will probably be of interest to a varied audience. Opera lovers who appreciate Kurt Weill's music will probably enjoy the recording most. Opera lovers who collect recordings love the familiar, but always relish the less familiar music that is released from time to time. THE ETERNAL ROAD will certainly be a rare treat in any opera lover's collection, that when listened to from time to time, is certain to bring enjoyment. The excerpts included in this recording are powerful and represent a side of Weill that is not as familiar as many of his other stage works. While it was conceived as a stage work, the recording sounds more like a modern day oratorio, but listeners can easily see how the musical pieces could be staged. Since the music is somewhat large and spectacular, and much of Weill's music found as home on the Broadway stage, people who enjoy theatrical music will also appreciate the recording. The piece is important historically not only because it presents a less familiar side of Weill, but also its historical context. Weill began work in 1933 which coincided with the beginnings of Nazi persecution. It was an affirmation of faith in the midst of the Holocaust.
The work is composed of the stories of many of the great Biblical heroes and heroines of the Jewish faith. Included in this recording are scenes telling the story of Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and the Angel, Jacob and Rachel, the death of Jacob (a very moving musical scene), Moses receiving the Ten Commandments (I believe to be one of the best scenes of the recording), Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz, and the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah.
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Format: Audio CD
Weill's The Eternal Road has basically languished for more than half a century. Several years ago a production was mounted by the Chemitz Opera in the original German, which played in Chemnitz, Brooklyn and Tel Aviv. Now excerpts from the work in its English form are finally available.

The Chemitz production clearly showed both the fascination that the work has and its extensive problems. Set in a synagogue during a Nazi program, the characters are identified by types (alienated Jew, Rabbi, Christian married to a Jew, etc.) and have no real personality. They are the raison d'etre for a telling of the biblical narrative. The rabbi acts as a the reader in the fashion of the Bach St. Matthew Passion. As the story unfolfs the characters act out the story on an upper stage. In general the work is episodic with little development. In this it is really a pagent not an opera or even an oratorio. The biggest difficulty is that the work in its present form is way to long. The music slides from one style to another and by the end of a performance the audience is generally numbed into submission. In short it doesn't work on stage.

Now with a highlight recording one can savour some of the best portions of this very uneven work. Repeated hearing may increase ones desire to hear the whole work, but clearly the best of it is here and is very moving and enjoyable. If you are looking for Three Penny Opera or Mahagony you will be be let down, but heard on its own it is quite remarkable.
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Format: Audio CD
Weill's vast opera/oratorio depicts a synagogue community, surrounded by hostile forces during Krystalnacht or similar happenings. The community, at risk of their lives, perform their history. It is the community's last performance and is a tense drama expressed in both spoken text and opera. The accompanying notes to this CD of highlights are very helpful but make insufficient reference to the spoken text that plays such an important part of the work, commenting and reacting as the drama unfolds. The CD was recorded following a performance in the Berlin Schauspielhaus/Konzerthaus. The Ernst Senff Chor is terrific as is the wind playing. The music is beautiful, powerful and postive but the CD itself ignores much of the work's context. There is no spoken text on the CD. The work is not just some Weill settings of biblical and biblical related texts but a tense dramatic experience that is conveyed both by spoken text and substancial musical settings of biblical narrative. In the Chemnitz production the performers perform as if they are at risk of their lives. What happens at the end of the work I will not relate. What comes over very strongly in the grainy DVD on the Premier Opera label of the very special Chemnitz production is that the Eternal Road is a vast work of epic proportions, very much in the tradition of lengthy, solidly German operas. (It is shorter than Wagner's MeistersIngers). The work's deeply Jewish aspects are conveyed as a natural part of German culture. It's good to have this helpful CD with its English text but the DVD of the Chemnitz production is also needed in order to experience the power and wonder of the work.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
An amazing trip through history with Kurt weill. You will not regret buying this piece. Great recording of a piece that was nearly lost.
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An interesting "unknown" piece, but the dissonance expected in a Weill piece (Three Penny Opera, Mahagonny) is striking by its absence. Part of the Milken Archive of music by American Jewish composers, the recording is well-performed, featuring highlights of the opera, under direction of Gerard Schwarz and soloists mostly not familiar to this listener.
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