Barry Humphries’ Weimar Cabaret

Edinburgh International Festival

Music               

Usher Hall

August 8th and 9th only

19.30

*****

Here is a concert of music mainly from the period between the wars in Germany. Some of the music the audience will be familiar with, such as Kurt Weill’s  Surabaya Johnny. Much is very unfamiliar.

This is because much of it was almost lost. Our witty conferencer, our M C, Barry Humphries, tells us of the time he went into a second hand bookshop in Melbourne, Australia when he was a schoolboy (he was a regular there) and found a suitcase full of sheet music, published by the famous Universal Company in Vienna in the 1920s. The music was experimental and forward-looking, often jazz influenced, and much of it by Jewish composers. It came to be banned and was presumably smuggled out of Nazi Germany by a refugee and brought all the way to Melbourne.

There is great richness and variety in the music; it is captivating and, as is not uncommon in the music of that time, fascinating effects are achieved in the wind section. Much is joyful, but there is a very elegiac trumpet solo, and the music often combines nostalgia and foreboding.

Barry Humphries is a most entertaining host, informative and amusing,. The cabaret artist Meow Meow, also from Melbourne, performed many songs wonderfully, including an S/.M one and a lesbian duet. We end with a post war number, The Ruins of Berlin.

The range of emotions experienced during this concert is vast, and the event deepens our sense of this vibrant, dynamic but ultimately tragic period of European history. This was a truly satisfying and memorable concert.

Tony Challis