Göteborgs Symfoniker

Weill: Concerto for Violin and Wind Orchestra

Marja Inkinen Engström about the violin concerto:
“Crazy, moving and very beautiful!”

When Marja Inkinen Engström tackles Kurt Weill’s violin concerto from 1924, she does it with great passion.

– When I first heard the work, I found it very moving and captivating, Marja says. It’s a little bit crazy and weird, but at the same time very beautiful. There is a Finnish word, “sykähdyttävä”, which well describes this often shocking, almost decadent mood of the work, but also at the same time the beautiful, melancholic rapture that I experienced.

Marja Inkinen Engström, 58, was born in Finland and is well known as principal of Violin 2 at the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, to which she has belonged for twenty-four years. In parallel, she has also been teaching at The Academy of Music and Drama in Gothenburg for a long time.

– I have performed Kurt Weill’s violin concerto once before, in Finland. It is a very special piece, typical of the period.

Weill wrote it as a very young man in 1924 in Berlin. He was inspired by Schönberg and the Second Viennese School, but also by his teacher Ferruccio Busoni, who meant a lot to Weill and was close to him.

– Busoni fell ill while Weill was writing the concerto and died a month after it was finished. I think that Weill’s grief and despair can be felt in several places in the music.
Kurt Weill’s violin concerto is a great challenge for every violinist. It is virtuosic and demanding in many different ways. Unusually, the ensemble only consists of thirteen wind instruments, as well as percussion and double bass, which chamber-musically create colors and tensions in dialogue with the solo violin.

– I can’t thank my amazingly talented colleagues and conductor Simon Crawford-Phillips enough for taking on this work, says Marja Inkinen Engström.

Recording with musicians from the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, May 15 2022, Gothenburg Concert Hall.

About Kurt Weill
Kurt Weill was born in Germany, but died in the US and was an American citizen for the last seven years of his life. Just as he lived on two different continents, his creativity had two distinctly different sides. One aspect, which is represented by his early violin concerto at this concert, is the precocious, modern European composer who wrote bold, atonal works in the spirit of Schoenberg.
The violin concerto was composed already in 1924. The other aspect of Weill is the successful Broadway composer who could write hits like September Song. And the two target groups were certainly entirely different: one was an elite intellectual European audience, while the other comprised pleasure-seeking theatre and cabaret audiences on either side of the Atlantic. Weill saw no problem with this, but those around him did, such as fellow composers Schoenberg, Webern and musical theorist Adorno. And cabaret audiences had little appreciation for his more serious side. Both trends existed at once, of course, just as Weill studied composition at the conservatory while working as a pianist in a beer hall.
But cabaret also finds its way into the violin concerto at times, particularly in the rhythms. And his classical training can be detected in the orchestration of Mahagonny and other musicals. In 1928, his renowned collaboration with playwright Bertolt Brecht began. With major successes such as The Threepenny Opera, Weill became the Weimar Republic’s most successful theatrical composer. But their collaboration was anything but harmonious. For Weill, the last straw was when Brecht asked his wife to read a communist manifesto on stage in act three of their piece Happy Ending. Weill had not been forewarned. His success and Jewish ancestry naturally drew the attention of the Nazi party, which was on the rise. In 1933, when Hitler was named chancellor of Germany, Weill fled to Paris. Two years later, on tour in New York, he decided to stay in the US with his wife, singer Lotte Lenya. In the US, he continued to compose for the theatre. Soon after turning 50, he had a heart attack and died.

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Weill Concerto for Violin and Wind Orchestra


Musicians from the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

Simon Crawford-Phillips conductor

Marja Inkinen Engström violin