Kurt Weill (1900–1950) began his career in the early 1920s after a musical childhood and several years of study in Berlin with the composer-pianist Ferruccio Busoni. By 1926 he was an established young German-Jewish composer but he had already decided to devote himself to the musical theatre (he married the actress Lotte Lenya in 1926) and his works with Bertolt Brecht soon made him famous all over Europe. He fled the new Nazi leadership in March 1933 and lived in America for his remaining years.
Weill composed his violin concerto in 1924; its orchestration and harmonies suggest the Second Viennese School and sit somewhere between Schoenberg and Stravinsky. Weill injects humorous and morose themes often mixing the two together as if they were indistinguishable. He uses the soloist-versus-orchestra format, the violin often competing against angular rhythms in the orchestra with an agitated lyrical line; there is also noticable jazz influence.
The violin concerto by Latvian-born Peteris Vasks (b1946) could not be further removed from Weill’s astringent work. As with many composers who emerged from eastern Europe in the 1980s—such as Arvo Pärt and Henryk Górecki—Vasks’ music has a very strong spiritual theme, in particular the tension between contrasting worlds—good and evil. His concerto for violin is fragile, beautiful and otherworldly, with just a small section of chaos depicting the fight of evil which is soon stamped out.
Anthony Marwood’s silvery tone and immaculate intonation is again on display in this fascinating disc.