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Ballads of the Pleasant Life: Kurt Weill, Weimar and Exile

“You will hear music created on the brink of cataclysm, proclaiming as it does with such intensity the survival of art and beauty in a hostile world. Any new recording of music from the short-lived Weimar Republic deserves our rapt attention, and now the world-renowned Australian baritone, Peter Coleman-Wright, offers a thrilling selection from this repertoire.”
– Barry Humphries, in his introduction to Ballads of the Pleasant Life.

Distinguished baritone Peter Coleman-Wright steps off the world’s opera stages to present a rare recording of music close to his heart: the remarkable songs written as the Weimar Republic descended into Nazism in the 1920 and ‘30s, by composers at home in Germany and Austria who were then forced to flee into exile. These songs capture the spirit of the times: defiant, soulful and searching, but also capable of moments of exuberant joy and hope.

The music of Kurt Weill sits at the heart of the album. We meet Weill’s infamous creation Mack the Knife, who first saw the light of day in 1920s Berlin and soon became a smash hit. A prominent Jew, Weill fled Germany in 1933. In America, he found his new musical home in the theatre, collaborating with lyricists Ira Gershwin and Maxwell Anderson, including his hilarious catalogue of Russian composers “Tschaikowsky” and the timeless ode “There’ll Be Love, Life and Laughter”.

For Weill’s generation, music was the language of protest. Austrians Hanns Eisler and Alexander von Zemlinsky wrote popular songs from the perspective of the downtrodden: the miners, the cotton packers and many more besides.

Amidst all this, there were flashes of humour, and the desire to take the rare joys of life by both hands. The album closes with a series of love songs, often sentimental, always heartfelt: film composer Robert Stolz’ praise for the beauties of life’s autumn years; Arnold Schoenberg’s elegy to the exquisite agony of separation; and Franz Schreker’s melancholy tribute to transient love.

Peter Coleman-Wright is regarded as one of the world’s leading baritones, with a stellar career in the world’s leading concert halls including Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Met in New York and the Sydney Opera House; he finds the perfect foil for this music in the Sydney-based Nexas Quartet. The arrangements of these songs for baritone and saxophone quartet, created especially for this album, reflect a combination that would have been familiar to the clubs and bars where much of this music was first performed.

Peter Coleman-Wright baritone
Nexas Quartet
Benjamin Burton piano

Track Listing:

  • 1. WEILL Ballade vom angenehmen Leben (Ballad of the Pleasant Life)
  • 2. WEILL September Song
  • 3. WEILL Les Filles de Bordeaux (The Girls of Bordeaux)
  • 4. WEILL Kanonen-Song
  • 5. WEILL Moritat von Mackie Messer (Ballad of Mack the Knife)
  • 6. WEILL There’ll Be Life, Love and Laughter
  • 7. WEILL Tschaikowsky
  • 8. WEILL Anstatt daß-Song
  • 9. WEILL Song of the Free
  • 10. EISLER Lied der Bergarbeiter (Song of the Miners)
  • 11. ZEMLINSKY Lied der Baumwollpacker (Song of the Cotton Packers)
  • 12. EISLER Stempellied (Benefit Stamp Song)
  • 13. EISLER Gruß an die Mark Brandenburg (Greetings to Brandenburg March)
  • 14. WEILL Tango-Ballade
  • 15. STOLZ Schön war’s heute Abend (This Evening Was Beautiful)
  • 16. SCHREKER Die Rosen und der Flieder (The Rose and the Lilac)
  • 17. SCHOENBERG Dank (Thank You)
  • 18. STOLZ Ein schöner Herbst (A Beautiful Autumn)
  • 19. STOLZ Ich hab’ mich tausendmal verliebt (I’ve Fallen in Love a Thousand Times)
  • 20. KORNGOLD Glückwunsch (I Wish You Bliss)
Release
Music can change lives. For almost 20 years, the Hush Foundation has been working with renowned Australian artists to create music of joy and calm – originally to support children in hospital, and now enjoyed everywhere from concert halls to living rooms. In this latest offering from the Hush series, pianist Tony Gould and guitarist Peter Petrucci present music that can bring optimism even in the toughest times.The Hush Foundation, under the inspirational leadership of physician Professor Catherine Crock AM, transforms the healthcare experience for patients, families and staff through music and the performing arts. It has produced 17 albums, bringing some of Australia’s finest performers and composers together in collaborative partnerships that engage with the lived experience of people in the health system and other stressful environments. Hush albums are played not only in hospitals, but also in aged care, palliative care and childcare facilities to reduce stress and anxiety. Community and international orchestras also play music composed for Hush. In 2014, Hush’s contribution to Australian music was acknowledged with the APRA/AMCOS Award for Excellence.Gathering of Kindness recognises the power of the small acts of kindness and respect that build trust and create a sense of safety and security in difficult and challenging situations. ‘When we ask patients, their families and those working in healthcare “What matters to you?”’ says Professor Crock, ‘the single word at the top of the list is kindness.’Tony Gould and Peter Petrucci wrote the music on this album with the Hush ‘family’ firmly in mind. ‘We hope they serve at least one of music’s purposes in life, and that is to help calm our fellow humans in times when things aren’t going so well. Music can do this superbly. It can also give us joy, can foster kindness and a sense that, ultimately, everything will be all right.’ This latest album has been named after the healthcare events Hush has hosted since 2016. The Gathering of Kindness bring people working in health and aged care together to talk about ways kindness can flourish in their organisations and services. These events are being hosted throughout November at metro, regional and rural healthcare organisations across Victoria, and include live performances of Hush plays and music, healthcare book launches and panels, narrative and a range of self-care workshops, as well as updates on new research being undertaken. Hush is also hosting a ticketed event at KPMG in Melbourne on Thursday 14 November.›Pianist / composer / critic / author / academic / educator Tony Gould has been involved in music in Australia for over half a century. A prolific performer, composer and recording artist across several musical genres of art music, Tony has composed and performed alongside other renowned musicians Australia-wide and internationally. His numerous accolades include membership of the Order of Australia (AM) in recognition of his contribution to music.Peter Petrucci is one of Australia’s leading jazz guitarists, recognised for his virtuosity and lyricism in improvisations and artful compositions. He has released eight albums – the latest, They Know That We Know, in August 2019. Peter has performed locally and internationally supporting distinguished musicians and has appeared at numerous international jazz festivals, in the US, Canada, Germany, Italy, the Melbourne International Jazz Festival and the Wangaratta, Stonnington and Queensland Jazz Festivals. TRACKLISTING 1 All Things Good2 Anthem3 Calm4 Autumn Lullaby5 Quiet6 Spring Town7 It’s Up to You8 A Little Folk Song9 Essence10 Truth and Beauty11 The Softness of Air12 The Smile Peter Petrucci guitar – Tony Gould piano Tks 1-3, 5, 8, 10-12 composed by Tony Gould.Tks 4, 6, 7 and 9 composed by Peter Petrucci.
Release
ABC Jazz is excited to announce the very first commercial release of a recording by Paul Cutlan's Coltrane Project, including a complete performance of John Coltrane's unfathomable masterpiece, Ascension.   The Coltrane Project was formed by Paul Cutlan and John Mackey as a one-off tribute concert in 1997 to mark the 30th anniversary of Coltrane's death. Gathering together some of Australia's finest improvisers, the popularity of the concept and the transformative energy of the ensemble has seen it regroup for a number of very special shows over the years, unique gatherings, never to be repeated, and never to be heard beyond those lucky few in the room - until now.    This release chronicles the highpoint of the project, when the ensemble swelled to 10 people in order to perform Ascension, that gigantic opus of Coltrane’s late repertoire, at the Side On Café in Annandale, in Sydney's inner-west.    "To me," says Cutlan, "Coltrane has always represented many things: an unreachably high standard of saxophone playing, the complexity and mystery of his harmonic and technical innovations, the inspiration of his untiring quest to always be better, to always be searching for greater spiritual and technical modes of expression, and an honest, human, universal quality which inspires my own efforts to discover what makes me unique and worthwhile as a musician."   Recorded for Radio National's Live on Stage program, this concert featured two sets: the first featured a sextet of Adam Ponting (piano), Steve Elphick and Steve Arié (basses), Toby Hall (drums), Andrew Robson (alto sax) and Paul Cutlan on tenor sax, bass clarinet and E-flat clarinet, performing both Coltrane compositions and originals by members of the project inspired by Coltrane’s output.    This gig began with Cutlan's own Blue Step, a piece in the style of Coltrane Plays the Blues, fused with a progression from his iconic Giant Steps. Equinox follows in a minor key with a slower, moodier blues: it gives the two basses plenty of space to interact, blending with bass clarinet. Then the key shifts up a semitone, unleashing a searing alto sax solo from Andrew Robson, before sinking back to the depths.    Naima is John Coltrane’s best known and loved ballad, written for his first wife. In this version, the bass clarinet and two basses once again create a dark, velvety texture, before a sublime piano solo from Adam Ponting. Kaleidoscope is a quirky, Calypso melody built on the harmonic progression to Giant Steps, written by Tony Gorman. Alto sax and piccolo clarinet duet before trading choruses, then the two basses also trade choruses.   Then came the second set - Ascension itself: a massive piece of intense expression, in which the players collectively create walls of sound. Each performer is featured in turn against this visceral environment, galvanised to transcend themselves in sound. For this set, the sextet is joined by Sandy Evans (tenor sax), Mathew Clare (alto sax), Phillip Slater (trumpet) and Jeremy Borthwick (trombone) - an incredible lineup featuring some of the most creative and accomplished jazz performers in Sydney.    "Among the inspiring line up of players on this performance," says Cutlan, "I want to make special mention of alto saxophonist Mathew Clare. This special musician died tragically young and isn’t documented on many recordings. I’m thrilled that audiences will now be able to hear Mathew’s highly emotive solo on Ascension, starting at 16:30."   "I’ve often wondered what to do with these recordings over the years, wanting to make them publicly available, but reticent to commit to producing an album or compilation. I think there are some incredible performances among all three recordings, but the original Coltrane albums are a daunting yardstick to be measured against. I’m really happy that this last ABC recording is finally being released - this seems to be the most appropriate way to share the accomplishments of a band which certainly developed an exciting and individual identity, as it came to grips with this awe-inspiring repertoire."   Tracklisting: 1. Blue Step (Paul Cutlan) 2. Equinox (John Coltrane) 3. Naima (John Coltrane) 4. Kaleidoscope (Tony Gorman) 5. Ascension (John Coltrane)   Paul Cutlan – tenor saxophone (1, 5), bass clarinet (2, 3), E-flat clarinet (4) Andrew Robson – alto saxophone Adam Ponting – piano Steve Elphick & Steve Arié – bass Toby Hall – drums   Plus (track 5 only): Sandy Evans – tenor saxophone  Matthew Clare – alto saxophone Phillip Slater – trumpet Jeremy Borthwick – trombone