Weimar Berlin has been evoked in music, film and literature so often that it takes real originality to recreate the Zeitgeist with fresh insight. Fortunately, this new recording Bye-Bye Berlin from Harmonia Mundi does just that and more, combining lesser known pieces with the better known, presenting them with proper musical sophistication. This disc is worth getting because it's much better quality than most. Marion Rampal, Quatuor Manfred and Raphaël Imbert have worked together for many years creating a style where top quality musicianship matters without sacrificing the subversive, louche spirit of Weimar and the Jazz Age.
Youkali comes from Maria Galante, a play based on a novel by Jacques Deval, for which Kurt Weill wrote songs and incidental music. The heroine is a prostitute who works South America, an exotic context to match the sensually swaying lines. Erwin Schulhoff's Chanson follows, from his Cinq Études du jazz (1927) arranged for chamber ensemble. The stylishness of these musicians shines : players adept in classical technique with an idiomatic feel for jazz. The fourth movement from Schulhoff's First String Quartet is equally accomplished. Paul Hindemith's trascription for chamber ensemble of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman is animated, more good humoured satire than serious horror, in keeping with the defiant wit of Mischa Spoliansky's The Lavender Song. No-one should be forced to conform ! Nein from Hanns Eisler's Kammerkantate no 6 is followed by the Langsam movement from Kurt Weill's String Quartet in B minor (1918). Between them, famous Brecht/Weill like Die Moritat von Mackie Messer, and Barbara-Song, and Brecht/Eisler songs like Solidarltätslied, which works rather well as art song and I saw many friends from Eisler's The Hollywood Liederbook. Two songs by Friedrich Hollaender from the film A Foreign Affair, The Ruins of Berlin and Black Market take us to the postwar period. Hollaender's most famous song Falling in Love again from the film The Blue Angel, made immortal by Marlene Dietrich. To conclude, an art song with a jazzy feel, Die Nachtigall from Alban Berg's Seben Frühe Lieder.