Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bernstein, Blitzstein and Brecht


Produced in association with the American Composers Forum

Thursday, June 14

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Bernstein, Blitzstein and Brecht

Bernstein, Blitzstein and Brecht . . . It sounds a little like a law firm, doesn't it? But today we celebrate the anniversary of an important musical partnership involving those three gentlemen.

Marc Blitzstein and Leonard Bernstein were two American composers who shared a passion for musical theater with a leftist political bent. Bertolt Brecht was a German poet and playwright, politically a Marxist, who's probably best known for his collaboration with the composer Kurt Weill on "The Threepenny Opera."

The artistic careers of Bernstein, Blitzstein and Brecht came together on today's date in 1952, when, as part of the First Festival of the Creative Arts held at Brandeis University, Leonard Bernstein conducted the premiere of a new English-language version of "The Threepenny Opera."

Brecht's original German lyrics had been translated into American English by Marc Blitzstein. Blitzstein had seen the original 1928 production when he was a student in Berlin, and some 20 years later had translated one of the show's songs just for fun. He got the chance to perform his translation for Kurt Weill, and Weill was so impressed that he encouraged Blitzstein to translate the whole work.

The Brandeis premiere of the Brecht-Weill-Blitzstein version of "The Threepenny Opera" was so successful that two years later, in 1954, the show opened Off-Broadway, and ran for over five years and 2,707 performances.

Music Played on Today's Program:

Kurt Weill (1900 -1950):
Little Threepenny Music
London Symphony members;
Michael Tilson Thomas, cond.
CBS 44529

Additional Information:

On Brecht
On Weill
On Blitzstein
On Bernstein

About the Program
Composers Datebook is a daily program about composers of the past and present, hosted by John Zech.

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