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Kurt Weill: An Illustrated Life Hardcover – September 27, 1995

2.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Schebera, an authority on the culture of the Weimar Republic and German American composer Kurt Weill, here presents an updated version of his biography first published in German. New material on the composer continues to surface, and some of this material is incorporated here. Emphasizing musical aspects rather than Weill's personal life, Schebera hopes this work will aid in what he sees as an ongoing reevaluation of Weill's career and will broaden appreciation for Weill as much more than just the composer of "Mack the Knife." Schebera makes wonderful use of archival illustrations: concert programs, advertisements, photos, even a few record labels from the Twenties and Thirties. This is a scholarly work, but the appealing subject, complete with the drama of Nazi persecution and flight from prewar Germany, makes it a good choice for most music collections. Smaller collections may be content with Ronald Taylor's Kurt Weill: Composer in a Divided World (Northeastern Univ. Pr., 1992), another fine biography of Weill.?James E. Ross, Seattle P.L.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Kurt Weill was a significant trendsetter in dramatic music, virtually creating the popular musical drama whose music supports dialogue and plot. He studied music first with his father, a Jewish cantor, then in Berlin with the pianist-composer Busoni. He wrote songs, choral works, chamber music, and symphonies before turning to the theater and becoming, eventually, world-famous for his collaborations with Bertolt Brecht, especially The Threepenny Opera and the singspiel, The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, which provoked riots at its premier. His wife, Lotte Lenya, starred in most of his productions. Fleeing the Nazis, Weill came to the U.S. in 1935 and collaborated with Maxwell Anderson (e.g., Knickerbocker Holiday with its "September Song," and Lost in the Stars) and with Moss Hart and Ira Gershwin (Lady in the Dark, which gave Weill financial independence). Profusely illustrated with photographs, playbills, and sheet music art, Schebera's biography seems definitive and well-rounded as it discusses all of Weill's important musical and dramatic achievements. Alan Hirsch

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1st edition (September 27, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300060556
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300060553
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 7.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,495,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Illustrated, yes. A life, well, seems like there's more to be told. Give this book's publisher 1 star, its author 2, and its translator 5. A smooth and seamless read, if not an altogether satisfying one.

Schebera does convey a sympathetic impression of Weill, and the illustrations offer a welcome insight into the historical context of Weill's music and how he was marketed. The difficulty is, none of the illustrated material is in color, a cost-saving move by the publisher that undercuts the value of the illustrations. Another shortcoming is that none of the discusion of Weill's music is accompanied by the music on the page.

Basically, this biography comes down to an itinerary of Weill's life with little said about what motivated and inspired the composer or how his creativity was stimulated and expressed. Remember, this was a man who was exiled from his native Germany in 1936, following the rise of Hitler's National Socialist Workers' Party, both because he was a Jew and also because he was regarded as a debaucher of German culture through his efforts to modernized classical music and opera.

Schebera is much better at placing Weill in a history-of-music context than at showing us what made the man tick. He unfortunately portrays a man whose life must have brimmed with emotional reactions to events occurring around him, from the creative explosion of the Weimar Republic to WWII to the Holocaust with a matter-of-fact detachment and, sorry to say, shallowness. Where this lack of emotional insight shows most notably is in Weill's personal relations. For example, he was married to Lotte Lenya twice, yet Schebera offers only a perfunctory and temporal explanation for their divorce and later casually glides over the motivations for their remarriage.
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