What’s worse? Owning a bank, or robbing a bank?

To find the answer to that, Bertolt Brecht’s poetry may be a useful tool. And a good place to start may be a brand new music album called “Bertolt Brecht – en kynisk menneskevenn” [a cynical philanthrope].

Here – in the midst of a soundscape of guitar, accordion, saxophone and voices singing in German and Norwegian – Vigdis Hjorth, Norwegian author, presents some distilled treasures from Bertolt Brecht’s poetry.

The singing voices are folk-artist Jørn Simen Øverli and multi-vocalist Ruth Wilhelmine Meyer. They have interwoven a pattern of Brecht’s lyrical poetry, alternating between the original version in German and Norwegian renderings of the same lyrics by Øverli. Ruth Wilhelmine Meyer adds sparkling elements with her innovative vocal expression.

The melodies have mostly been written by Hanns Eisler in addition to two songs by Kurt Weill. Vigdis Hjorth is part of the musical adventure with her terse, recited quotes from Brecht. The arrangements are by Espen Leite playing accordion (Brecht’s preferred instrument), the singers and Rolf Erik Nystrøm on saxophone.

Bertolt Brecht is a poet who was able to put words to what it is to be a human being, where mass production, society’s machinery and economic growth need us a pawns in the grand scheme of things. Alienation, exploitation, impotence and love are underlying themes that are just as relevant today as they were in the inter-war years. This album offers an interesting view on how Brecht’s poetry has new relevance in our time.

“Show me the poet who can better capture the pervasive feeling of what life is in our time,” says Vigdis Hjorth on the CD cover.

The CD has been recorded by Erik Hillestad at Kulturkirken Jakob and is released by KKV.

Bertolt Brecht – A cynical philanthrope 

Jørn Simen Øverli – vocals and guitar

Vigdis Hjorth – recitation

Ruth Wilhelmine Meyer – vocals

Espen Leite – accordion

Rolf-Erik Nystrøm – saxophone

Kirkelig Kulturverksted, Oslo 2022.

Share release