Max Raabe and the Palast Orchestra

October 31, 2007


Last night Peter, Juliana, Scott and I went to hear Max Raabe and the Palast Orchestra. In this tour, the ensemble devoted the evening to the crooner cabaret music of the mid 1920s through the 1930s. Post Al Jolson. Kurt Weill, Irving Berlin, and others. I didn’t find Max’s voice remarkable, but appropriate to the style. He doesn’t move to the music (don’t think David Byrne), and disappears into the shadows when he doesn’t sing. The 13 piece ensemble included Max, hair slicked back, short and deadpan, and a man of few physical gestures; a seven piece wind group, all who play brass, woodwinds AND violin (sic); a drummer who knows the style and has great energy; a banjo, guitar, National Steel guitar, mandolin and violin player; the bass player who also plays tuba (very well) as well as a violin; a pianist; and the only woman, a violinist.

I couldn’t help but think that the music we heard had all been transcribed from recordings as the scores are probably long gone. The concert was excellent and I recommend the music to everyone. Well, if you are creeped out by hearing too much German, you might not like them as two thirds of the music was sung in German, and many of the composers were German. And as I looked around Royce Hall at intermission, I realized that there were a LOT of senior citizen German people in the audience. You could hear them humming along on the Fritz Kreisler song. One of my Jewish composer buddies fled at intermission. “Enough!” he spouted as he left. I could have left at intermission too but I stayed with my pals and enjoyed it.

I told Peter that I want my second opera to take place during the roaring 20s. I’d love to tap into that musical language but not be a slave to the exact language.

Here is a video (“In Der Bar Zum Krokodil”) that illustrates Raabe’s singing style although here he is only accompanied by the piano. Visit YouTube to hear more of their work.

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