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MSU Music concert celebrates the music of Kurt Weill Composer blurred the boundaries between classical, jazz and popular music

March 21, 2018

Courtesy Photo - Fairchild Theatre MSU


EAST LANSING, Mich. — On Monday, April 9th at 7:30 p.m. in the Fairchild Theatre in the MSU Auditorium, West Circle Series presents works by German-born composer Kurt Weill who was known for writing operas and music that blurred the lines between classical, jazz and popular music.


The concert will open with Surabaya Johnny and Matrosen Lieder, performed by James Forger, saxophone; Deborah Moriarty, piano and Jane Bunnell, mezzo-soprano. The remainder of the first half of the program features well-known favorites — September Song (Knickerbocker Holiday), My Ship (Lady in the Dark), Mack the Knife, Ice Cream Sextet (Street Scene). The second half of the program will include several movements from Little Threepenny Music, conducted by Kevin Sedatole. Concert guides for this exciting voyage into the world of Kurt Weill will be Marc Embree and Kevin Sedatole.


Kurt Weill is known as one of the pioneers in the development of American opera. Born in Germany in 1900, Weill showed signs of great musical talent early on. By the age of 25 he was widely respected as a composer and musician, already working on his first opera, Der Protagonist. Weill’s work was unique, characterized by the use of dance idioms inspired by American technique.


In 1933, Weill had to flee Germany due to political controversy surrounding themes within his operas.He went to Paris first and then the United States in 1935 to work in American Theatre where he quickly gained fame. Mack the Knife, the opening number from Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, was adopted as an American jazz standard. Loui s Armstrong and Bobby Darin have perhaps the most popular versions among  the many recordings of it. 

The Threepenny Opera, written in 1928 to words by writer and political activist Bertolt Brecht, tells the story of Macheath (Mack the Knife), a murderer in Victorian London. Known for lampooning German society and capitalism, it was one of the most popular works of the period. Weill was commissioned by conductor Otto Klemperer to create a concert suite from the opera that became Little Threepenny Music (Kleine Dreigroschenmusik) which is said to retain the unique