Updated August 27, 2005
Important Information Sources
Scores and Performance Rights
Playwrights, Directors, Composers Linked with Eisler
Artists and Scholars Who Keep the Eisler Tradition Alive
Past and Contemporary Political Song Artists
September Link of the Month|
The International Forum for Suppressed Music promotes the study and performance of music suppressed by the Nazis. Although its early focus is on composers who suffered under the Third Reich, the IFSM is also platform for examining music under other totalitarian regimes.
Internationale Hanns Eisler Gesellschaft (IHEG)
In German and English, the International Hanns Eisler Society website includes a comprehensive bibliography and news about performances, lectures and other events.
Bullfrog Films distributes the award-winning documentary "Solidarity Song" about Eisler's life and work, praised as a skillful blend of the composer's music with interviews and rare footage from the 1920s-1960s.
The DEFA Film Library at the University of Massachusetts sells videos of movies produced by the East German DEFA studio between 1946-1990, including Eisler films of the early 1950s. Some DVDs are expensive and intended for library and institutional use; others are priced for the home market.
Film Journal special centenary edition on Eisler
One of the best sources of English-language Eisler scholarship on the web. Type "Hanns Eisler" in the search field, and the site will display all articles from the October, 1998, issue of the "Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television" devoted to Eisler.
Eisler's FBI file
Released under the Freedom of Information Act, this is the complete 686-page FBI file on Hanns Eisler, labelled an "alien subversive," based on surveillance and wiretaps from the mid-1930s until the "Eisler case" was finally closed after his forced departure from the U.S. in 1948. Thanks to the FBI's diligence, many valuable documents in German and Russian are available here in English translation. Bertolt Brecht's FBI file and the massive FBI COMPIC investigation ("Communist InfiltrationMotion Picture Industry") are also available.
Review of Deutsche Sinfonie
During the Eisler Centenary in 1998 the American Symphony Orchestra performed Eisler's German Symphonythe work's première in the United states. Here is Misha Donat's commentary on the work on the American Symphony Orchestra website.
Lion Feuchtwanger's home in Los Angeles was one of the social and intellectual centers of the German emigré community on the West Coast; Eisler, Brecht and Thomas Mann were frequent guests. This archive includes a unique collection of documents, letters, film scores and records from Eisler's exile years in Hollywood.
Breitkopf & Härtel
Breitkopf & Härtel publishes and licenses performances of most of the available Hanns Eisler scores for voice, piano, chorus, jazz band, chamber ensemble and symphony orchestraexcepting some works predating 1933 that are published by Universal Editions (below). It is now the parent company of Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Eisler's publisher in the GDR, and is the official publisher of the new Hanns Eisler Collected Edition (HEGA). In North America, Eisler scores can also be purchased online at Sheet Music Plus.
Eisler's first music publisher in Viennaspecializing since the 1920s in the avant-garde music of Schönberg, Berg and Webern. Publishes and licenses performances of Eisler music written before 1933, including the earliest Brecht/Eisler plays.
European American Music Distributors
The North American agent for performance music published by Universal Editions, Vienna, and the Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig. Requests concerning performance of Eisler's music should be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In English, this official website of the International Brecht Society provides valuable resources for Brecht scholars, artists and students.
Official website of the Arnold Schönberg Center in Vienna, includes a brief description of Eisler's relationship with his great teacher.
Official website of the Kurt Weill Foundation. Weill wrote the music for Brecht's most popular early plays, and along with Eisler and Dessau was one of the three composers most closely associated with the playwright at different stages of his career.
Anton Webern, one of Schönberg's greatest students, taught Eisler briefly in 1922 and championed his works. Eisler was in Vienna in 1933 at Webern's invitation for a performance of the Brecht/Eisler play "Die Mutter," and therefore by chance escaped arrest when the Nazis seized power in Berlin.
Official website of the Leonard Bernstein Estate, with useful resources on the conductor's life, a complete discography and news on performances. Bernstein, along with Aaron Copland, Roger Sessions and Charlie Chaplin, was part of the committee of artists and entertainers who tried to prevent Eisler's deportation from the U.S.
Maintained by the foundation which cares for Copland's house near New York City (now a museum), the site includes good background information on the composer's life and music.
Roger Sessions was one of the leading American composers of the 20th century. His works span the genres of symphonic, chamber, opera and piano music.
The radical American composer Marc Blitzstein consistently supported Hanns and Lou Eisler during their exile years in the United States. He was an important link between Eisler and Bernstein, Copland, and other American composers who came to admire Eisler's work.
English composer Alan Bush has been praised by critic Colin Mason for his "harmonic and orchestral richness ... contrapuntal originality ... the expressive power of rather austere musical thought ... telling instrumental invention." Bush's personal turn towards a fusion of classical music with progressive political commitment was inspired by his experience with Eisler in Weimar Berlin.
The famed Dutch documentary film director Joris Ivens, commissioned Eisler scores for "Rain," "New Earth," "Song of Heroes" and "400 Million."
Clifford Odets, the successful New York playwright and Hollywood director, was Eisler's close friend and adviser during the years of exile in New York and Hollywood.
The British-born icon of American film befriended Eisler during his exile years in Hollywood. The two discovered they shared an outrageous sense of humor and a commitment to social change through the arts. Chaplin defended Eisler when the composer was excoriated in the U.S. press for his alleged subversive activities in the U.S. film industry, but soon Chaplin had problems of his own as a target of anti-communist investigators.
The most famous political folksinger and songwriter in the United States, Guthrie embodied Eisler's ideal of the engaged artist. His "This Land is Your Land" has been sung for decades by teenagers around summer campfires, but actually is a protest against the abuse of private ownership. Guthrie's poem "Eisler on the Go," recorded in 1998 by Billy Bragg, expressed the songwriter's dismay at Eisler's persecution during the McCarthy Era.
The theater company founded by Bertolt Brecht and Helene Weigel after their return to Berlin following World War II. Eisler's music for Brecht's plays is frequently performed here.
The celebrated director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin State Opera, Barenboim is a member of the governing board of the International Hanns Eisler Society. His commitment to peace and human rights marks him as one of the most important socially-engaged musicians of our time.
Leon Botstein has been acclaimed as the "renaissance man" of American music. He is president of Bard College, conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra and a respected music historian and critic. In 1998, the Eisler centenary year, he conducted the U.S. première of Eisler's "German Symphony." Botstein's commentary on that performance is an important assessment of Eisler and other 20th-century composers persecuted by the Nazis.
Baritone Matthias Goerne is one of the rising young stars in European opera and a world-acclaimed interpreter of German art songs. His Grammy-nominated recording of Eisler's Hollywood Songbook has breathed new life into the lieder of the composer Goerne compares with Brahms and Schubert.
Of all the new releases of Eisler music timed for the composer's centenary in 1998, the recordings of his chamber and piano music by Swiss pianist and director Christoph Keller are considered definitive. He is a member of the executive board of the International Hanns Eisler Society.
Information on performances by HK Gruber, the Viennese conductor, composer and chansonnier whose masterful Roaring Eisler albuma powerful interpretation of Brecht/Eisler political songs from the Weimar Republicwe recommend.
Versatile composer Heiner Goebbels conceived the Eislermaterial revue which has proved to be one of the most engaging interpretations of Eisler's theater and chamber music for contemporary audiences. He is associated with the Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt.
Gisela May, whose husky voice was "discovered" by Brecht and Eisler in postwar Berlin, became one of Germany's best-known interpreters of music by Eisler and Kurt Weill. She was for years a star of Berlin cabaret and musical theater.
Singer/actor Robyn Archer studied at the Berliner Ensemble and today is recognized as one of Australia's most important artists in theater and music. Her two "Songs for Bad Times" CDs are widely recognized as the definitive performances in English of the Brecht/Weill/Eisler/Dessau repertory. She is currently artistic director of the world-renowned Melbourne Festival.
Musicologist Dr. Albrecht Dümling initiated the founding of the International Hanns Eisler Society, along with Mrs. Stephanie Eisler, in 1994. He is widely recognized as an expert on "Entartete Musik"the avant-garde music suppressed by the Nazis from 1933 to 1945.
Composer David Blake studied with Eisler in East Berlin shortly before the end of the composer's life. He is editor of Hanns Eisler Miscellany, one of the few books about Eisler available in the English language. He is a member of the International Hanns Eisler Society's governing board.
Politically-engaged American composer and pianist Frederick Rzewski has championed Eisler's music from the 1960s to the present.
Coralfox Ltd. is a classical music production and consultancy company founded by Michael Haasproducer of the "Entartete Musik" series on Decca which included a masterful performance of Eisler's "German Symphony" by the Leipzig Gewandhaus.
Akademie der Künste, Berlin
The Academy of Arts, Berlin-Brandenburg, unites the former professional arts academies of West and East Berlin. The Academy's Stiftung Archiv (Archive Foundation) maintains the Hanns Eisler Archive.
Hochschule für Musik "Hanns Eisler"
The Hanns Eisler Academy of Music was founded after World War II as the state conservatory in the eastern sector of Berlin. It was renamed in the composer's honor after his death in 1962. The Academy continues to be the leading college for music in unified Berlin with programs in composition, music theory, new music and performance. Eisler was a founding member of its faculty in 1950.
Here are other sources for political song artists from the 1930s to the present. They represent a variety of stylesfolk, African American spiritual, cabaret and chanson. We have listed primarily artists who have demonstrated a consistent commitment to social justice in their music throughout their careers. We know this is a very limited list: your suggestions will be welcome.
Sweet Honey in the Rock
Centre for Political Song
Are You Now or Have You Ever Been
A radio version of the docudrama by playwright and Brecht/Eisler scholar Eric Bentley. Starring: Edward Asner, Bonnie Bedelia, Bud Cort, Richard Dreyfuss, Hector Elizondo, Robert Foxworth, Harry Hamlin, James Earl Jones, Richard Masur, Joe Spano, James Whitmore, Michael York. Bentley assembles a searing account of the hunt for "Reds" in Hollywood with the transcripts of the interrogations of Paul Robeson, Ring Lardner, Elia Kazan, Zero Mostel and others. Both the artists who refused to cooperate and those who "named names" are portrayedalong with their interrogators. The radio play was produced by Los Angeles Theater Works and can be purchased as an audiocassette. The script of Bentley's play is also available for sale at Amazon.
Are You Now or Have You Ever Been: Study Guide [PDF]
Also on the Los Angeles Theater Works website, an excellent study guide for classes listening to Bentley's radio play. Includes a list of websites with in-depth information on the Hollywood Blacklist.
Transcript of PBS Newshour broadcast with excerpts from the documentary "Legacy of the Hollywood Blacklist" and an interview with writer/producer Paul Jarrico.
Useful books about the Blacklist
Our books page includes a bibliography on the U.S. government's persecution of directors, actors, writers and other intellectuals during the McCarthy Era. Be sure also to check out our links to the FBI files on Hanns Eisler and Bertolt Brecht, listed above.
Georg Eisler, son of Hanns and Charlotte Eisler (a singer and Eisler's first partner), was a noted Vienna artist who shared his father's concern for social justice. This site highlights his paintings and other works.
German Historical Museum
The Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin has useful online exhibits covering the Weimar Republic, Third Reich, postwar division of Germanythe times that affected Eisler's stance towards politics and art.
East German Studies Association
The EGSA maintains an online newsletter and links to resources about the former German Democratic Republic.
Written by Andy Lang.