Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Thursday, September 26

Weill's "September Song"

Synopsis

The haunting melody “September Song” by Kurt Weill was first heard by the public on today’s date in the year 1938, , during a trial run in Hartford, Connecticut, of a new musical titled “Knickerbocker Holiday.”

Kurt Weill was 38 at the time and had been in America just three years. In Europe, he had been a successful composer of both concert and stage works, most notably the enormously popular “Three-Penny Opera” from 1928, a collaboration with the Marxist poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht. He had left his native Germany after being warned that he was under danger of imminent arrest by the Gestapo.

In America, Weill set out to establish himself on Broadway, but to remain faithful to the philosophical thrust of his European work. The text for his “Knickerbocker Holiday,” for example, was by Maxwell Anderson, inspired by Washington Irving’s fanciful “Father Knickerbocker’s History of New York.” But in the Anderson-Weill treatment, the historical Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant comes off as a proto-Fascist dictator, a comic but pointed reference in the year 1938, when both Hitler and Mussolini were at the height of their power.

Until his untimely death in 1950, for his Broadway musicals Weill continued to set serious subjects — ranging from psychoanalysis to South African apartheid — in a distinctive yet accessible style.

Music Played in Today's Program

Kurt Weill (1900-1950) September Song (arr. Morton Gould) Hollywood Bowl Orchestra; John Mauceri, cond. Philips 446 404

Additional Information

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