Ute Lemper / Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Edinburgh International Festival Scotsman review (music): Ute Lemper/Scottish Chamber Orchestra at Usher Hall. Reviewed by Susan Nickalls

[Ute Lemper conjures up the louche cabarets of 1920s Berlin and Paris with her smoky voice and innate theatricality]

With her smoky voice, sultry looks and innate theatricality, Ute Lemper could easily have just stepped out of the louche cabarets that were such a hotbed of artistic talent in 1920s Berlin and Paris.

The German singer and actress has made the repertoire of Kurt Weill, in particular, her own and this dominated the first half of this concert with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

In popular songs like Mack the Knife from Weill’s The Threepenny Opera and Der Song von Mandelay and Surabaya Johnny from the Happy End, Lemper conjured up the spirit of Weill’s wife, singer Lotte Lenya, for whom the songs were written.

Her stunning interpretations rather made the lengthy orchestral suite, from The Threepenny Opera, although played with swagger and swing by the SCO, somewhat redundant. In the second half, Lemper relished recreating the more dramatic personas of Edith Piaf, with brilliant performances of Milord and Padam…padam…, and Marlene Dietrich.

The latter’s 1940s war-time staple Lily Marlene for voice and piano was just a touch too slow, more effective was Ich bin von Kopft bis Fuss, (Falling in Love Again), progressing from solo piano to a full orchestral backing for Lemper’s dizzy jazz scatting.

Conductor Lawrence Foster, or Larry as Lemper calls him, produced a tightly knit sound from the SCO with lots of swing and luscious strings in the sumptuously scored songs by Hanns Eisler.

Like Weill, Eisler sets Bertold Brecht’s words superbly which seemed tailor-made for Lemper’s beguiling voice whether singing in German, French or English.

Originally published in The Scotsman

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