Kurt Weill

1900 - 1950



Born in Dessau on March 2nd in 1900, German composer Kurt Weill is largely recognised as one of the most outstanding German composers to come to maturity after the First World War. By the age of 15, Weill was beginning to show signs of some creative ability, and so his father sought the advice of assistant conductor at the Hoftheater, Albert Bing. After seeing Weill’s significant ability, Bing decided to teach him personally and did so for a number of years, before, at Bing’s suggestion, Weill moved on to the Berlin Conservatory, where he studied composition with Humperdinck, counterpoint with Friedrich Koch and conducting with Rudolf Krasselt. Weill would later go on to study as part of a three year masterclass in composition with Ferruccio Busoni from 1921.

After some rigorous training in order to improve some of Weill’s technical shortcomings, Weill began to compose music in the genre in which he would go on to make his name – music for the stage. His works for stage were numerous and he worked in collaboration with many people to great success, including Georg Kaiser and Bertolt Brecht in Germany. It was with the latter that the work Die Dreigroschenoper (‘The Three Penny Opera’) was premiered in 1928. This work was so successful that it allowed Weill to start devoting his life to composition and earn a living wage. Weill’s success in Europe would be unfortunately, somewhat short-lived as the rise of the Nazis meant publically funded theatres would often refuse to perform his works, despite their widespread popularity with the public due to his Jewish heritage. 

In response to the threat of the Nazis, Weill escaped to America in September 1935, moving to New York where he already had some contacts on the Broadway scene. In the years that followed, Weill collaborated with a prolific list of American writers, including Maxwell Anderson, Ira Gershwin, Moss Hart, Langston Hughes, Alan Jay Lerner, S.J. Perelmann and Ogden Nash. Over the next fifteen years, Weill had a number of very successful works and worked right into the final week of his life. He died on April 3rd 1950, from a longstanding heart problem, shortly after beginning work on a musical adaptation of Huckleberry Finn with Maxwell Anderson.