Jul 30, 2013

The Turntable Cranks Up Again

I've slowly but surely restarted my formative-album replay project over at my other blog, Train My Ear, and though many of the records aren't theater-related, today's is a beloved collection of Brecht and Weill songs in French:
It's not an exaggeration to say that hearing these gutsy, iconic German classics in the language and chanson idiom of Brel and Piaf and Gainsbourg is a revelation--it even sounds a bit like a homecoming. Franck Aussman's orchestra, clearly taking a cue from the Lewis Ruth Band arrangements, plays this catalogue in a way that's both loose and jaunty, almost casual, but also spikier, more syncopated than we're used to hearing it; the banjo and rickety saloon piano feel like part of the percussion section, and the percussion in turn feels like a crucial partner in the accompaniment. The vocals, mostly handled by the unflappable contralto Catherine Sauvage, have that distinctly Gallic sigh, edging easily into a sneer, that locates passion and resignation, the embrace and the shrug, closer together on the dynamic/dramatic spectrum than we Americans (and most definitely than the Germans) do. And the Francophone setting implicitly places Weill's signature harmonic language within an early-mid-century Continental context, alongside Milhaud and Satie (or his teacher Busoni) as much as Hindemith or Eisler.
I'll return to theater blogging proper soonish. For now--maybe this is a summer thing--the record collection beckons.

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