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About this Piece

Selected songs include:

  • One Life to Live
  • My Ship
  • Das Lied Von Der Harten Nuss
  • September Song
  • I am a Stranger Here Myself

Songs were central to Kurt Weill's career, as a theater composer first and foremost. He grew up with singing all around him, through his father’s work as chief cantor of the synagogue in Dessau and his family’s frequent attendance at the opera. His obvious musical talents were quickly and capably developed and before he was 30 years old he was the leading theater composer of the Weimar Republic, with strong and productive working relationships with Georg Kaiser and Bertolt Brecht.

His prominence as a Jewish composer of "decadent" music with leftist leanings made him and his works obvious targets for the Nazis and their cultural sympathizers, and in 1933 he fled, rather abruptly and urgently, to Paris. There he reunited with Brecht for Die sieben Todsünden (The Seven Deadly Sins), choreographed by George Balanchine and starring Weill's wife, Lotte Lenya. The situation in Paris also gradually worsened for Weill, and in 1935 he travelled with his unwieldy four-act Biblical drama The Eternal Road (a collaboration with Max Reinhardt and Franz Werfel) to New York, where he eventually established solid theater roots (his American collaborators included Maxwell Anderson, Ira Gershwin, Moss Hart, Langston Hughes, Alan Jay Lerner, S. J. Perelmann, and Ogden Nash) and became a U.S. citizen.

Although Weimar Expressionist experiments and commercial Broadway musicals are clearly different social and artist contexts, Weill always thought his work followed a middle path straddling genres and forms. Songs such as "Moritat von Mackie Messer" ("Mack the Knife"), "Alabama Song," "Surabaya Johnny," "September Song," and "Lost in the Stars" are all unmistakably Weill, despite their diverse origins.