In order to give you an idea of the theme behind this album, I quote from the booklet note, which does a better job than I could do: "English writer Christopher Iserwood's fictionalised Berlin memoirs, Goodbye to Berlin, provided the title for the 1951 Broadway play I am a camera, adapted from Isherwood's novel. His stories also later inspired the 1966 musical comedy Cabaret (notably starring Lotte Lenya) and the scenario for Bob Fosse's 1972 film version. Writing after his departure from Berlin in 1933, Isherwood's optical metaphor evokes one of the most striking and characteristic aesthetic principles that influenced all cultural life in 1920s Berlin, that of 'Neue Sachlichkeit,' or 'New Objectivity.' The movement was considered the essence of modernity, as practised and theorized by many artists."
The album Bye-Bye Berlin includes seventeen songs, airs, and lieder from the 1920s Berlin era, composed by such notable persons as Kurt Weill, Paul Hindemith, Hanns Eisler, Friedrich Hollaender, Bertolt Brecht, and others. The French singer-songwriter Marion Rampal (no relation to the Jean-Pierre Rampal) does the vocals, accompanied by the Quatuor Manfred, a quartet made up of Marie Bereau, violin; Luigi Vecchioni, violin; Emmanuel Haratyk, viola; and Christian Wolff, cello; and featuring Raphael Imbert on saxophones and bass clarinet.
Ms. Rampal is principally a jazz singer, with a wonderful range, and does up the songs in both German and French. Her accompaniment is principally a classical quartet, but they adapt nicely to the more-popular rhythms of the jazz-inflected music; and Mr. Imbert is principally a jazz and improvisation artist who provides a strong backbone for most of the scores.
Here's a rundown on the selections:
1. Kurt Weill: Youkali (from Marie Galante)
2. Erwin Schulhoff: Chanson (from Cinq Études de jazz)
3. Kurt Weill: Die Morität von Mackie Messer (from The Threepenny Opera)
4. Kurt Weill: Barbara-Song (from The Threepenny Opera)
5. Erwin Schulhoff: Andante molto sostenuto (from First String Quartet)
6. Paul Hindemith: Ouvertüre from The Flying Dutchman
7. Arno Billing (Mischa Spoliansky): The Lavender Song
8. Jan Meyerowitz: Help me Lord (from The Barrier)
9. Hanns Eisler: Nein (from Kammerkantate Nr. 6)
10. Kurt Weill: Langsam und innig (from String Quartet in B Minor)
11. Kurt Weill: Ballad of a Drowned Girl (from Das Berliner Requiem)
12. Hanns Eisler: Solidaritätslied (from Kühle Wampe, oder: Wem gehört die Welt?)
13. Hanns Eisler: I saw many friends (from Die Hollywood Elegien)
14. Friedrich Hollaender: The Ruins of Berlin (from A Foreign Affair)
15. Friedrich Hollaender: Black Market (from A Foreign Affair)
16. Friedrich Hollaender: Falling in love again (from The Blue Angel)
17. Alban Berg: Die Nachtigall (from Sieben frühe Lieder)
Favorites? As usual, some things struck me as a tad bland, while many others were hard to resist. The opening Kurt Weill song sets the tone for the album. The sorrowful instrumental by Erwin Schulhoff that follows makes a skillful transition into the familiar "Mack the Knife" tune. And so it goes. Listeners who appreciate the musical Cabaret or just listeners who appreciate classical or jazz music will doubtless find the selections of interest.
Finally, an informative, forty-odd-page set of booklet notes in several languages complete the package. Musically and sonically, it's is a worthy treat.
Producer Alban Moraud and the Alban Morand Studio made the recordings at Cite de la Voix, Vezelay, France in November 2016. The voice is nicely placed in the center front, with the ensemble realistically laid out behind her. The frequency balance seems nearly perfect, although the instruments tend very occasionally to overpower the vocals. So, one can hardly fault the sonics, which come through in lifelike fashion.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below: