Renowned German chanteuse Ute Lemper joins her countrymen the Vogler Quartet and Stefan Malzew for a collection of songs that takes the listeners on a journey through time via Europe and Argentina. Paris Days, Berlin Nights (Steinway & Sons 30009 — March 20, 2012) will coincide with a North American tour beginning at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC on March 19 and ending April 6 in Quebec, with stops in Akron, OH; Beaver Creek, CO; Vancouver; Los Angeles, CA; La Jolla, CA; San Francisco, CA; Toronto; and New York City.
Bookended by post-war tales of love and despair from the French songbook by Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf, Paris Days, Berlin Nights hearkens back to the years of the revolutionary and decadent Weimar Republic, rooted in music and stories by Kurt Weill and Berthold Brecht.
Stepping into the darker world embodied in the songs of Hanns Eisler, reflections of political revolt composed during his exile from Nazi Germany, Lemper guides us through glimpses of a world shattered by war. Like a great love story, the listener is then led into the passionate world of the Latin American adventurer Astor Piazzolla, the composer of decadent songs of Argentina’s nuevo tango, before venturing to Eastern Europe with repertoire of love and war in Yiddish and in Russian, including two chansons by the Polish-born Israeli singer Chava Alberstein.
The Vogler Quartet lends these chansons a sound that is by turns delicate and powerful in thoughtful arrangements by Stefan Malzew, who infuses Lemper’s cunning interpretations with complementary flavorings of piano, clarinet and accordion. “We are all the same generation of Germans, says Lemper of her partners the Vogler Quartet. “Actually, they are from the East and I’m from the West, but still, I would definitely say we meet in the middle.”
In speaking about her commitment to the root repertoire she presents on this recording, Lemper calls herself “an ambassador to the European songbook of the Weimar years — the Brecht, the Weill, the Piaf, the Brel, the Kabarett.... It’s a great responsibility and I’m proud to bring this music out into our millennium and into the world.”
Founded in East Berlin in 1985 and still with its original members, the Vogler Quartet first attained recognition in 1986 after winning First Prize at the International String Quartet Competition in Evian, France. Shortly thereafter, BMG/RCA produced the first of many recordings for the quartet. In 2011 they began a relationship with Sony Classical, releasing a recording of Golijov’s Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind and the Mozart clarinet quintet, with clarinetist David Orlowsky. In 1993, the Vogler Quartet instituted its own concert series at the Konzerthaus in Berlin; because of its great popularity, they now offer a parallel series in Neubrandenburg. The quartet founded the Vogler Spring Festival in Sligo, Ireland in 1999, which brings together international artists for chamber music and workshops every spring.
Stefan Malzew has brought classical masterpieces to German audiences through his chamber orchestra version of The Magic Flute, a semi-staged version of Wagner’s Tannhäuser and transcriptions of Tosca and La Bohème for small opera theaters. His special presentations such as Mozart250, Sunday at Four, Concert Nights of Neubrandenburg, a prizewinning YouTube project entitled Stefan’s Musikworkshop, and his own radio show for children, have allowed the German public to discover classical music in new ways. Mr. Malzew currently serves as the Music Director of the Neubrandenburg Orchestra, is the founder of the youth orchestra festival Baltikum 2004 and appears regularly as a pianist with his own orchestra and numerous chamber groups.
Ute Lemper’s career has grown out of a passionate and enduring commitment to art, politics and history, as well as a complicated relationship with her homeland and its past, and has led to international acclaim as a recording artist and in the theatre, cabaret and film worlds, including Velma Kelly in Chicago (London, New York, Las Vegas), Cabaret in Paris; in solo concerts such as Kurt Weill Recital and Berlin Cabaret Evening; in symphony concerts, including The Seven Deadly Sins and Songs from Kurt Weill; and in Pina Bausch’s Kurt Weill Revue. Although she is perhaps best known for her interpretations of music of the Weimar Republic era, her edgy aesthetic and repertoire also reach far beyond Germany. She has explored the French chanson of Edith Piaf, Jacques Prévert, Joseph Kosma and Serge Gainsbourg, and Belgian poet Jacques Brel, as well as contemporary alternative rock music — from Tom Waits and Elvis Costello to Nick Cave, as well as Philip Glass, on her Punishing Kiss album. She has created her own original material which can be heard on the albums But One Day, Between Yesterday and Tomorrow and The Bukowski Project. In 2011, Ms. Lemper collaborated with Wynton Marsalis in an homage to the music of Kurt Weill presented in three extraordinary concerts at Jazz at Lincoln Center and featuring 15 exclusive arrangements. Her newest project is Ultimo Tango, presenting the music of the composer of Nuevo Tango Astor Piazzolla and the lyrics of Horacio Ferrer. Her solo concerts reflect these pan-European and international interests, and include Songs from Piaf & Dietrich; Illusions (also material associated with Piaf and Dietrich); Songbook, consisting of settings by Michael Nyman of texts by Romanian Holocaust poet Paul Celan; and City of Strangers, with chansons of Prévert side by side with songs of Sondheim. Ms. Lemper’s extraordinarily supple and expressive voice does not provide her only creative outlet. She has appeared in many international films. Maurice Béjart created a ballet for her, La Mort Subite, which premiered in Paris in 1990. Her paintings have been exhibited at the German Consulate in New York, the Goethe Institute in Washington and at the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris.
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