Kurt Weill, classical music composer

Kurt Weill image

Kurt Weill


Kurt Weill was born on March 2, 1900, the third of four children to Albert Weill, a cantor living in the Jewish quarter of Dessau, Germany, and his wife, Emma. Kurt began taking piano lessons at the age of twelve, and soon made his initial attempts at writing music. Mi Addir. Jewish Wedding Song, dates from 1913, and is his earliest surviving composition. In 1915, he began lessons with Albert Bing, Kapellmeister at the Herzogliches Hoftheater. Bing taught Kurt piano, composition, music theory, and conducting. That same year, Kurt made his public debut on the piano. More compositions followed, most notably, vocal settings of poems by Joseph von Eichendorff, Arno Holz, and Anna Ritter.

At the age of eighteen, Weill enrolled at the Berliner Hochschule für Musik, where he studied composition with Engelbert Humperdinck. However, his studies in Berlin were cut short. In the aftermath of World War I, Weill's family faced difficult financial times. He returned home in July 1919 to help support his family. He took a job as a répétiteur at the Friedrich-Theater, but was able later that year, with the help of Humperdinck, to secure the post of Kapellmeister at the newly founded Stadttheater in Lüdenscheid. After a stay of several months in Leipzig, Weill was finally able to return to Berlin.

Once again in Berlin, Weill successfully became one of the five students to be accepted at the Preußische Akademie dur Künste to study under Ferruccio Busoni, whom he studied with until 1923. Nevertheless, Weill continued to support his family during his studies by working as a pianist in a tavern, and later, during his last year of study, by teaching private composition and music theory lessons.

During this time, Weill's output spanned both concert music and stage works. While his concert music was moderately successful, his greatest successes were on the stage. In 1928, he produced his best-known work, The Threepenny Opera, in collaboration with the playwright Bertolt Brecht. It contained two of Weill's most popular songs, "Mack the Knife" and "Pirate Jenny," and enjoyed incredible success across Europe before the Nazi's rise to power in Germany.

By 1933, however, Weill faced an imminent threat to both his career and livelihood. Already, he had secured a prominent reputation as a composer, but his Jewish heritage brought him directly in the crosshairs of the Nazis. Weill was officially denounced and productions of his works were criticized and interfered with. In March of that year, Weill fled Germany, and by way of Paris and London, eventually made his way to the United States in 1935.

In the United States, Weill abandoned the European style he had so successfully written in, and studied American popular and stage music with the goal of creating an artistically and commercially successful American opera. He worked with writers such as Maxwell Anderson and Ira Gershwin. He also began working on film scores and made frequent trips to New York City and Hollywood. Weill died on April 3, 1950 after suffering a heart attack.

Composer Title Date Action
Kurt Weill Lost in the Stars 01/12/2009 Play Add to playlist
Kurt Weill Saga of Jenny from Lady in the Dark 01/27/2009 Play Add to playlist
Kurt Weill Es regnet 03/01/2009 Play Add to playlist
Kurt Weill Nana's Liede 03/01/2009 Play Add to playlist
Kurt Weill Je ne t'aime pas 03/01/2009 Play Add to playlist
Kurt Weill Wouldn't You like to be on Broadway 03/27/2009 Play Add to playlist
Kurt Weill "Mack the Knife" - orchestration/arrangement 09/05/2010 Play Add to playlist
Kurt Weill Dirge for Two Veterans, from Four Songs of Whitman 11/08/2011 Play Add to playlist
Kurt Weill Oh Captain! My Captain!, from Four Songs of Whitman 11/08/2011 Play Add to playlist