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Kurt Weill

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Kurt Weill

Biography

Kurt Weill (2 March 1900, Dessau - 3 April 1950, New York City) was a German composer.

Weill was born the third of four children to Albert Weill (1867–1950) and Emma Weill née Ackermann (1872–1955). He grew up in a religious Jewish family in the "Sandvorstadt", the Jewish quarter in Dessau, where his father was a cantor.

In 1915, Weill started taking private lessons with Albert Bing, Kapellmeister at the "Herzogliche Hoftheater zu Dessau", who taught him piano, composition, music theory, and conducting. Weill performed publicly on piano for the first time in 1915, both as an accompanist and soloist. Weill graduated with an Abitur from the Oberrealschule of Dessau in 1918, and enrolled at the Berliner Hochschule für Musik at the age of 18, where he studied composition with Engelbert Humperdinck, conducting with Rudolf Krasselt, and counterpoint with Friedrich E. Koch. In 1920, Ferruccio Busoni accepted him as one of five master students in composition at the Preußische Akademie der Künste in Berlin.

He supported himself through a wide range of musical activities, from playing organ in a synagogue to piano in a Bierkeller, by tutoring students (including Claudio Arrau and Maurice Abravanel) in music theory, and, later, by contributing music criticism to Der deutsche Rundfunk, the weekly program journal of the German radio.

By 1925, a series of performances in Berlin and at international music festivals established Weill as one of the leading composers of his generation, along with Paul Hindemith and Ernst Krenek. At age nineteen, he decided the musical theater would be his calling. In 1926, he made a sensational theatrical debut in Dresden with his first opera, Der Protagonist, a one-act on a text by Georg Kaiser. Weill considered Der neue Orpheus (1925), a cantata for soprano, violin, and orchestra on a poem by Iwan Goll, to be a turning point in his career; it prefigured the stylistic multiplicity and provocative ambiguity typical of his compositional style. Weill's stage works enraged the Nazis, and he fled to the United States where he composed numerous works for Broadway and Hollywood.


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