Part of the Rest Is Noise Audio Guide
Note: The first page number is for the hardback edition, the second number is for the paperback.
Berlin in the twenties was a battleground not only of politics but of musical styles: neoclassicism, "new objectivity," jazz opera, Communist "battle music," Fascist-leaning late-Romanticism, the twelve-tone music of Schoenberg and his disciples, and the music theater of Kurt Weill. In essence, the early twentieth century was compressed into one urban space.
The hard-driving early-twenties style of Paul Hindemith (see pp. 181-83 / pp. 198-200 of The Rest is Noise) is exemplified in his Kammermusik No. 2:
Riccardo Chailly conducting the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London 433 816-2.
Somewhat in the spirit of Dada is Hindemith's joyously ugly The Flying Dutchman Overture as Sight-Read by a Bad Spa Orchestra by the Village Well at Seven in the Morning:
Buchberger Quartett, Wergo 6197.
Carl Orff, starting in the late twenties, devoted much of his time to developing techniques, instruments, and repertory to teach music to young people (pp. 183-84 / pp. 199-200). The five-volume Orff-Schulwerk, created in collaboration with Gunild Keetman and published in 1950, became hugely influential in the postwar era. Keetman's Musik für Kinder III No. 15 has become nearly as familiar as Orff's later Carmina burana through its employment on movie soundtracks, starting with Terence Malick's Badlands:
Karl Peinkofer Percussion Ensemble, Celestial Harmonies 13104.
Zeitopera, or "Now Opera," a Weimar Republic sub-genre that brought opera rigorously up-to-date in subject and tone, originated in the operas of Franz Schreker (p. 185 / pp. 201-2), whose Der ferne Klang has an amazing scene in which several kinds of pre-jazz popular music are heard simultaneously:
Julien Salemkour conducting the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and the Groot Omroepkoor, live recording, included with the book Franz Schreker: Grenzgänge, Grenzklänge, ed. Michael Haas and Christopher Hailey (Jüdisches Musuem Wien).
Jonny spielt auf, a quintessential Zeitoper by Schreker's student Ernst Krenek, is jazz à la deutsch (pp. 185-86 / pp. 202-3):
Maria Posselt and Krister St. Hill, with Lothar Zagrosek conducting the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, London 436 631.
On a page of audio files at the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music site, you can hear Lotte Lenya describing her first meeting with Weill (click on "One Sunday, Georg Kaiser..." and the next two selections; RealPlayer required). Here is Lenya singing the "Alabama Song" from the Mahagonny Songspiel (p. 190 / p. 207), in a recording made with the Three Admirals and Theo Mackeben's Jazz Orchestra in 1930:
And here is Bertolt Brecht vigorously rolling his r's in "Die Moritat vom Mackie Messer," otherwise known as "Mack the Knife," from The Threepenny Opera (pp. 190-94 / pp. 208-11):
Both of the above from the album Die Dreigroschenoper, Berlin 1930, Teldec 0927 42663 2.
In the final scene of Weill and Brecht's epic opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (pp. 204-6 / pp. 223-24), the "Alabama Song" is overrun by a Mahlerian death march in the orchestra, over which the chorus sings, "Nothing you can do will help a dead man" — a premature epitaph for the Weimar Republic:
Jan Latham-König conducting the Kölner Rundfunkorchester and the Pro Musica Vocal Ensemble of Köln, with Anna Silja as Jenny and Paul Wolfrum as Bill, Capriccio 10 160-61.
My colleague Anthony Tommasini, chief music critic of the New York Times, has made an excellent short video explaining the genesis of Schoenberg's twelve-tone method of composition, which was codified in the nineteen-twenties, not long before Schoenberg moved to Berlin. The method can be heard gestating in the opening measures of Schoenberg's Jakobsleiter (see pp. 194-95 / pp. 212-13) Courtesy of the Schoenberg Center comes this video of the 1961 premiere of the unfinished oratorio (the music begins at 2:35; the twelve-tone row is complete by 2:45):
An exemplary demonstration of the method in action comes in Anton Webern's coolly expressive Variations for Piano, written in 1935-36 (p. 197 / p. 214):
Peter Hill, piano, Naxos 8.553870. By kind permission of Naxos.
The Schoenberg Center has voluminous material relating to Schoenberg's activities in the later twenties and early thirties, when he was teaching in Berlin and enjoying a measure of professional satisfaction. For example, on a 1931 radio broadcast you can hear him discussing his Variations for Orchestra (download link).
Schoenberg's unfinished twelve-tone opera Moses und Aron (pp. 199-201 / pp. 218-19), the masterpiece of his Berlin years, opens with a chordal representation of the voice of God speaking through the burning bush. Moses then intones, "O single, eternal, omnipresent, invisible, and unrepresentable God!"
Libidinous trombone glissandos appear in the "erotic orgy" from the Dance Around the Golden Calf in Act II of the opera:
Both of the above with Pierre Boulez conducting the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Chorus of the Netherlands Opera and David Pittman-Jennings as Moses; DG 449174.
Hanns Eisler, a committed Communist who first studied with Schoenberg and then turned to writing leftist music for the workers and the people, wrote in 1930 a ferociously effective anthem entitled "Der heimliche Aufmarsch," or "The Secret Deployment," in which it is said that "an attack on the Soviet Union is a stab in the heart of the revolution" (p. 202 / pp. 220):
Ernst Busch: Lieder der Arbeiterklasse & Lieder aus dem spanischen Bürgerkrieg, pläne 88642.
The opening of Alban Berg's magisterial twelve-tone opera Lulu, with its circus-master shout of "Hereinspaziert!" or "Step right up!" (p. 208 / p. 227):
The crypto-Romantic love theme of Lulu and Dr Schön unfolds in the strings as Lulu declares, "If I belong to one man in this world, then I belong to you...." (p. 210 / p. 229):
The theme recurs throughout the opera, and makes a deeply chilling final appearance while Lulu negotiates a fee with a john who turns out to be Jack the Ripper :
The twelve-note dissonances that announce Lulu's death, followed by Jack the Ripper's brutal remark, "That was a piece of work":
Pierre Boulez conducting the orchestra of the Paris Opera, with Teresa Stratas as Lulu and Franz Mazura as Schön / Jack; DG 415 489-2.
The beautifully desolate final bars of Berg's Lyric Suite (p. 212 / pp. 231-32):
Arditti Quartet, Disques Montaigne 789001.