Brecht Jahr

Dateline: 03/06/98

Bertholt Brecht (1898-1956) was an important literary figure in Germany's history. A master of wit and sarcasm, he created plays and poems which expounded fervent anarchist beliefs filled with satire against bourgeois ethics, while also militantly opposed to Nazism. His anarchism was most profound in his work from the early 20's, works which ironically showed an almost morbid fascination with violence.

Brecht had an important impact on Germany's musical history as well. Many of his works were set to music by Kurt Weill, most notably Due Dreigroschenoper from 1928, which was based upon John Gay's The Beggar's Opera. He also influenced a generation of singer/songwriters born out of the student revolutions of 1968, liedermacher Liedermacher has comparisons with French Chanson as well as the American protest song movement, in it's categorically undefinable music, set to lyrics which often are socially critical, poetic, and intellectual.

The year 1998 markes the 100th anniversary of Brecht's birth. To mark this occasion, in Germany 1998 is the Brecht Jahr (jahr meaning "year" in English), or the Brecht Centenary as it is known outside of Deutschland.

To celebrate, there are many lectures, exhibitions, and concerts going to be held all over Germany this year, so travellers expecting to be in that country this year might want to take note -- as well as those already living there. Brecht Centenary Web site is the offical site to get information about what's going on -- it's all in German though. You can also purchase a souvenir program online. For English-speakers, The International Brecht Society has information, concert listings, as well as background into Brecht and his life.

One performer in Germany who is already very involved with Brecht Jahr is Konstantin Wecker. Wecker is a liedermacher who is almost legendary in his native country. Wecker's work in many ways continue Brecht's legacy of strong social criticism and satire. His latest album is called, simply, Brecht and features ten songs which sound like the Wecker that Germany has been listening to for the past twenty years or so -- his characteristically percussive piano stylings sound very familiar. However, the lyrics courtesy of Brecht. Wecker makes each song his own with a unique fuse of jazz, pop, and a very traditional German cabaret ambience in certain songs thanks to his eight-piece band, especially the strong accordion.

To learn more about Konstantin Wecker, you can visit his Official Konstantin Wecker Page. Maintained by Bine Maywald in Vienna, Austria, this site contains a lot of photos, biographical information, concert listings, and up-to-date news about Wecker. Even if you don't read German it's worth a look. On the English side of things, I run the "Other" Konstantin Wecker Page in English, featuring information about Wecker in English including a critical study of his work, translations of his lyrics, and different photos than on the official site. If you visit, don't forget to sign my guestbook!

Brecht is published by Global Musicon, and distributed by BMG Ariola. It is not readily available outside of German-language countries, but can be imported by most record stores (the CD number is: 74321 54274 2) or ordered online. To do the latter, please refer to my Online Shopping Sources set of Net Links. Of course, if you live in Germany, Austria, or (I think) parts of Switzerland, you can find Brecht at your local CD shops.

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