Hanns Eisler: CDs, Videos, Books CDs

Bullet Fourteen Ways of Describing Eisler
Bullet Symphonic, Chamber and Piano Music
Bullet Vocal and Choral Music
Bullet Videos with Eisler Scores
Bullet Books by and about Eisler
Bullet Political Music and the Urban Folk Revival

Deutsche Sinfonie: An Anti-fascist Cantata  RealAudio Buy this CD [US] Buy this CD [UK]
Lothar Zagrosek, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
London 448 389-2

From London's "Entartete Musik" series. Eisler rejected the large-scale symphonic form during his famous turn away from concert music in the late 1920s, but, paradoxically, this is a monumental choral symphony of 11 movements based on poetry by Brecht and Silone. All but the last movement showcase Eisler's distinctive style of twelve-tone composition. The texts, set in the period of exile from Nazi Germany, explore the political and psychological landscapes of despair, defiance and hope. Decca/London—now a subsidiary of Universal Music—has withdrawn this significant recording by the world-famous Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra from the market, so only a few copies are left at the Amazon US and UK websites. Buy it while you have the chance!

The Music Survives! Degenerate Music  Buy this CD
Lothar Zagrosek, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
London/Decca 452664

When the last copy of "Deutsche Sinfonie" disappears, this sampler (from London/Decca's now-abandoned "Entartete Musik" series of music suppressed by the Nazis) may still be available. It includes the impressive choral Prelude (Präludium) from Eisler's symphony.

Eislermaterial  Buy this CD [US] Buy this CD [Canada] Buy this CD [Germany]
Heiner Goebbels, Ensemble Modern
ECM Records 1779

Heiner Goebbels organized, rehearsed and arranged some of the music for this contemporary interpretation of Eisler's songs and chamber music. It has introduced a new generation of European audiences to Eisler, and now the performance can be purchased on CD. Press reviews are available on the ECM website.

Hanns Eisler: Orchestral Pieces  RealAudio Buy this CD [Ger] RealAudio Buy this CD [US]
Hanns Zimmer, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Capriccio 10 500

Still available on Amazon's German site, this excellent CD includes the experimental Chamber Symphony—one of the best examples of Eisler's communicative style of twelve-tone and atonal composition. Based on his 1940 film score for a documentary about the Arctic ice mass, Eisler added electronic keyboards to the orchestration—then a novelty both in film and concert music. Also on this album: the partly-atonal Small Symphony, Five Pieces for Orchestra, and the Storm Suite for Orchestra. The sample is from the Small Symphony.

Hanns Eisler: Works for Orchestra I  Buy this CD
Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester, Leipziger Kammermusikvereinigung des Gewandhausorchesters
Berlin Classics 0092282BC

Includes the film-score-based Suites Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5; Theme with Variations from the film score for The Long March; and the twelve-tone Chamber Symphony. Good performances by GDR ensembles in the 1970s, digitally remastered by Edel Berlin Classics.

Hanns Eisler: Works for Orchestra II  Buy this CD
Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester, Leipziger Kammermusikvereinigung, etc.
Berlin Classics 0092332BC

Includes the partly-atonal Small Symphony, Five Pieces for Orchestra, Scherzo with Solo Violin, Rhapsody for Large Orchestra with Soprano Solo after Words from Goethe's Faust, the Winter Battle Suite, and a song from the theater music for Schiller's William Tell.

Hanns Eisler: Chamber Music  Buy this CD
Kammermusikverein der Deutschen Staatsoper Berlin, etc.
Berlin Classics 0092312BC

Includes the Scherzo for String Trio; Palmström (Studies on Twelve-Tone Rows); Duo for Violin and Cello; Newspaper Clippings (Zeitungsauschnitte) for Voice and Piano; Prelude and Fuge on B-A-C-H for String Trio; Sonata for Flute, Oboe and Harp; Sonata for Violin and Piano (the Travel Sonata); Nonet Nr. 1; Septet Nr. 2 (based on music for Charlie Chaplin's film Circus, never completed because of Eisler's forced departure from the U.S.). This album, like the following, spans Eisler's early chamber works in atonal and twelve-tone style, and later works based on film and stage music.

Hanns Eisler: Chamber Music  Buy this CD
Leipzig Kammermusikverein, Bläserorchester Berlin, Collegium Musicum Leipzig, Kammermusikverein der Deutschen Staatsoper Berlin, Berlin Staatskapelle
Berlin Classics 0093542BC

With the same title as the preceding album, this is a two-CD set of Eisler's music for small ensembles, including the only recordings currently available of early Eisler atonal compositions from the period before his break with Arnold Schönberg. Includes Divertimento for Wind Quintet, Hanns Eisler's Diary, Suite Nr. 5, Nonet Nr. 2, Galgenlieder, Tempo der Zeit, Fourteen Ways of Describing the Rain, and Movements for Nonet.

Musique de Chambre, Vol. II  RealAudio
Christoph Keller, Kammerensemble de Zürich
Accord 200632

The second CD of Christoph Keller's compilation of Eisler's chamber music, it includes the Suite for Septet Nr. 1, based on American children's songs, the Septet Nr. 2, written originally as incidental music for a projected Charlie Chaplin movie (The Circus), the 1938 String Quartet (our featured RealAudio sample), the twelve-tone Prelude and Fuge on B-A-C-H for String Trio, and other works. This recording is now difficult to find.

Ensemble Stanislas  Buy this CD
Jeff Cohen, piano; Alexis Galpérine, violin; etc.
Gallo CD-676

Interesting compilation of music by Eisler, Weill, Schönberg. Includes Eisler's Septet No. 1 (variations on American children's songs), Septet Nr. 2 (based on an unfinished film score for Charlie Chaplin's Circus), Weill's Seven Movements from the Threepenny Opera, Schönberg's tonal Eisenbrigade. Recommended.

Wind Quintets  Buy this CD
Delos Wind Quintet
Ars Musici 5087

Wind quintets by Eisler (Divertimento for wind quintet, Op 4), Hindemith, Carter and Nielsen.

Aulos Bläser Quintett: Vol. 7  Buy this CD
Aulos Wind Quintet
Koch Schwann 311632

Chamber music by Hindemith, Schönberg and Eisler (selections from the twelve-tone Palmström for vocal soloist and flute).

Hanns Eisler: Piano Works  Buy this CD
Gerhard Erber, Siegfried Stöckigt, Walter Olbertz
Berlin Classics 0092352BC

Two-CD collection of GDR recordings of most of Eisler's piano repertory. Contents similar to the unfortunately discontinued CDs by Christoph Keller. (See below.)

Oeuvres pour Piano (vol. 1) 
Christoph Keller
Accord 200582

First piano CD by Christoph Keller includes piano music in a variety of twelve-tone, atonal and traditional styles. No longer available.

L'Oeuvre pour Piano (vol. 2) 
Christoph Keller, Katharina Weber
Accord 201612

Second piano CD by Christoph Keller includes Five Early Piano Pieces, Andante, Improvisation for Ernst Bloch, Rachmaninov Parody, Overture from Die Mutter. No longer available.

Der große Zapfenstreich der NVA   RealAudio Buy this CD
Gerhard Baumann, Zentrales Orchester der NVA
Musicando 6285-2

An interesting historical document for aficionados of band music. The Central Orchestra of the National People's Army was arguably one of the world's finest military bands; it went out of business along with the rest of the East German establishment in October 1990. Its legendary director, Gerhart Baumann, orchestrated this Marxist reinterpretation of the traditional Prussian Zapfenstreich (Great Striking of the Taps)—a torchlight military ceremony with roots in the Napoleonic Wars. Baumann is an extraordinarily gifted arranger and here he skillfully blends together German military marches, horn signals and fanfares with the militant protest songs of the European revolutionary movement—including an instrumental version of the GDR national anthem composed by Eisler. Eisler would probably have been amused, if not horrified, by the incorporation of his music into a Marxist-Leninist revival of Prussian military tradition: the result certainly shows the psychological distance travelled by German Communism from its origins as a persecuted opposition movement to its final form as a state religion, and in any case is a musical experience worth having.

Written by Andy Lang.

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This is a discography of Eisler CDs of orchestral, chamber and piano music, minus those selections that we recommend in our list of the top fourteen Eisler albums. Links are provided to e-commerce sites for those CDs that are currently available.

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