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Dip Your Ears, No. 160 (A Magical Night from Kurt Weill)

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Kurt Weill
Arte Ensemble

Unideological Tin Soldiers and Horsies

Art—books, music, whatnot—made specifically for children falls often either pray to insufferable patronization (i.e. Norene Smith’s narration of Mark Petering’s The Tomten and the Fox) or is refreshingly stripped of ideology (Charles Curtis’ Richards Reise, for example). Kurt Weill’s strangely delightful Zaubernacht (music for a children’s pantomime) falls solidly, perhaps surprisingly, into the latter category. Radical and revolutionary November group stuff seems far away when a fairy’s song awakes the toys, and off they go, most pleasantly: A grumpy stove and martial little tin soldiers and nimble Jumping Jacks and horsies and foxtrotting bears—all musically portrayed and invited to a dance. In 1922, 22 years old and fresh off his studies with Humperdinck and conducting operettas in Lüdenscheid, Kurt Weill went to work on Vladimir Boritsch’s piece and came up with something for an (economic) nine-piece combo of piano, percussion, strings, flute and bassoon. The result is an innovatively scored, thoroughly delightful, hour-long dance suite. It might be unfair to the composer (of whose music I’m not usually that keen), or just not saying much, but there’s little of Weill’s music that I enjoy as much as this Zaubernacht. This is the first recording of Weill’s own orchestration.