NEW YORK — Kurt Weill is better known for theatrical music than for movie scores, but his illustrious career took him into an array of styles and subjects. "September Songs: The Music of Kurt Weill," a new CD from Sony Classical, mirrors this versatility with an unpredictable roster of performers.
For pop tastes, Elvis Costello sings "Lost in the Stars," and Lou Reed chants the disc's title song. Gospel fans will enjoy The Persuasions singing "O Heavenly Salvation," and jazz buffs can tap their toes to "Speak Low" interpreted by Charlie Haden, with help from Weill himself on an old recording. Opera is represented by Teresa Stratas, who sings "Surabaya Johnny" and "Toukali Tango," and purists will applaud Lotte Lenya's searing rendition of "Pirate Jenny," not to mention "Mack the Knife" sung by the legendary Bertolt Brecht, who wrote "The Threepenny Opera" and "The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny" with Weill.
The most offbeat track is "What Keeps Mankind Alive?" as intoned by William S. Burroughs, the late Beat Generation author. The most inimitable is "Alabama Song," belted out by David Johansen and associates. Also on hand are Nick Cave with another "Mack the Knife" and PJ Harvey with a heartbreaking "Ballad of the Soldier's Wife," plus selections by Betty Carter and Mary Margaret O'Hara. In all, this is one of the year's most original CD offerings.