Review of the New York Premiere of Salzman’s Brecht Suite
The New York premiere of Salzman’s Brecht Suite—music from the Theatre du Trident French-language production of the Santa Barbara version of Brecht’s La Bonne Ame de Setchouan—had its New York premiere on December 2, 3 and 4, 2009, at the cell theatre, produced by the cell with the Center for Contemporary Opera (CCO). The performers were mezzo Laila Salins, virtuoso accordionist Bill Schimmel, Machiko Ozawa and Marc Levine, violins, and Leo Grinhauz, cello.
Schimmel also played Salzman’s Accord: Solo for Schimmel. Other works on the program included Schimmel’s version of the Poet & Peasant Overture, a set of Latvian songs performed by Ms. Salins (who is Latvian-American), and a rousing set of tangos by Osvaldo Pugliese as arranged by Schimmel. Harry Rolnick (of ConcertoNet.com) had this to say:
“Mr. Salzman redeemed himself triplefold with the music for Brecht’s “Good Woman of Sichuan.” Mr. Salzman, as critic, musicologist and composer, is virtually synonymous with “music theater,” and when he found Brecht’s second working of the drama in Los Angeles, he was ecstatic. No music had been written for it (Kurt Weill was on the outs with Brecht), so Mr. Salzman took it in his own hands, resulting in a Quebec performance. The five excerpts here were splendid, with a typical Salzman surprise. The middle three songs did have that biting Weill-type melody. Ms. Salins didn’t have to do a Lotte Lenya: her own drama was fascinating enough. But the first purely instrumental work was eerily different. It had the resonance of 18th Century modal American church music, or like Virgil Thomson’s film music of America. What was it doing here? Not until the final song did we find out. The same music was used as background for a Weill-like ersatz anthem, performed beautifully by all five musicians.”
The entire program was recorded and should be available on a CCO CD and excerpts will be posted on YouTube. There are also plans for the program to tour abroad.