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Kurt Weill: A Perfect Fit for Small-Scale Performances

Jun. 01, 2020

Kurt Weill: A Perfect Fit for Small-Scale Performances

Many of Kurt Weill’s works employ instruments in groupings considerably smaller than that of even a traditional chamber orchestra. This can make for ideal programming choices in these challenging times. Weill’s approach to stage works often allowed for, as he said himself, “concert and theatrical possibilities on an equal basis.” Thus, the humane engagement and social conscience that lie at the heart of Weill’s work can come through effectively even in un-staged or semi-staged formats.

The following Weill works are set for ensembles made up of as few as a half dozen players and are in all cases performable with twenty musicians or less. 

Stage works in original instrumentation:
Die Dreigroschenoper (Listen)
Happy End (Listen)
Mahagonny Songspiel (Listen)

(Mahagonny Songspiel/The London Sinfonietta/David Atherton, conductor)

Stage works in new versions for smaller forces:
Chanson de quais (Suite of songs from Marie GalanteListen)
Die sieben Todsünden (for a perusal recording contact

Concert works:
Das Berliner Requiem (Listen; version also available for three soloists in place of chorus)
Frauentanz (Listen)
Kleine Dreigroschenmusik (Listen)
Kleine Zaubernachtmusik (Suite from ZaubernachtListen to the full ballet.)  
Vom Tod im Wald (Listen)

(Frauentanz/Rosemary Hardy, soprano and Ensemble Modern/H. K. Gruber, conductor)

To learn more about Kurt Weill, visit or 

Das Berliner Requiem (1928)
Cantata for tenor, baritone, three-part male chorus and wind orchestra
Text by Bertolt Brecht lib.)-timp.perc(cym, s.d)-gtr.banjo-org or harm

Chansons des quais (2017)
Cycle for soprano, male quartet, and chamber ensemble.
Conceived by Kim H. Kowalke
Lyrics by Jacques Deval
asax(cl).asax(fl).tsax(ssax, asax).2tpt.1tbn.pno.gtr(bjo)

Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera) (1928)
play with music after John Gay's "The Beggar's Opera"; in three acts
German translation by Elisabeth Hauptmann
adaptation and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht
2S, 2Mz, T, Bar, B-Bar and speaking roles
asax(fl, cl, bsax).tsax(ssax, bsn, bcl)-tpt.tbn(db)-banjo(vc, gtr, Hawaiian gtr, mandolin, bandoneon)-timp/perc(tpt2)harm (cel, pno)

Frauentanz, Op. 10
Soloist(s): Soprano
Duration: 13'
The Seven Deadly Sins arranged for 15 players by HK Gruber & Christian Muthspiel
instrumentation:; T.T.Bar.B - 20 players
Soloist(s): Soprano
Duration: 35'

Kleine Dreigroschenmusik 
concert overture for chamber orchestra
instrumentation: 2(pic).2.asax.tsax(ssax).2- hp)
Duration: 22' 

Kleine Zaubernachtmusik: Suite for Chamber Ensemble from Zaubernacht
instrumentation: fl, bsn, pno, perc., timp; string quintet: 1 vn I, 1 vn II, 1 va, 1 vc, 1 cb - 10 players
Duration: 21'

Mahagonny Songspiel (1927)
Text (Ger) by Bertolt Brecht
English translation by Michael Feingold
2S, 2T, 2B; orchestra

Vom Tod im Wald, Op. 23
instrumentation: 2cl, bn, cbn(bn), 2 hn, 2 tpt, tbn, bass tbn
Soloist(s): Bass
Duration: 9'