Updated November 6, 2002
"Eislermaterial," a contemporary interpretation of Eisler's songs and chamber music conceived by versatile German composer Heiner Goebbels, will be staged at the University of California at Los Angeles on December 4, 2003. This will be the first major performance of Eisler's music in the United States in nearly five years. We don't know yet if the show will appear in other North American cities, but we'll let you know in this space when we hear the news.
"Eislermaterial" includes Brecht/Eisler songs sung by German actor Josef Bierbichler, a selection of Eisler's chamber music and improvisations inspired by Eisler. The multimedia show has introduced a new generation of enthusiastic European audiences to the sometimes-reviled radical composer who was deported from the U.S. in 1947. You can read an engaging review of a recent performance at the Brussels International Performing Arts Festival.
Please note: If you know any group that might want to sponsor the performance in your city, contact the Ensemble Modern.
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Universal Music in Germany plans to reissue the entire "Entartete Musik" ("Degenerate Music") series originally released by Decca (now a Universal subsidiary). The series includes two important Eisler CDs: the "Deutsche Sinfonie" performed by the Leipzig Gewandhaus and Eisler's famous cycle of art songs reflecting the German exile experience, "Hollywooder Liederbuch," sung by baritone Matthias Goerne with accompanist Eric Schneider.
"Entartete Musik" revives the music of German and Austrian composers who were banned by the Nazis, including Eisler, Wolpe, Krenek, Goldschmidt, Korngold and many others. The styles they represent are diverse; the Nazis condemned avant-garde composers regardless of race, but musical conservatives shared the same fate if they were Jewish.
Universal's decision is good news because these CDs were rapidly disappearing from the market. The release will be timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary next year of Hitler's rise to power in 1933and the beginning of the exodus of composers and other intellectuals from Nazi Germany.
We'll let you know when the series is available. In the meantime, the recordings are described at the Cambridge University Opera Society website. The International Forum for Suppressed Music at the Jewish Music Institute in London is the best source in English for information about the contemporary revival of "degenerate music." Particular thanks are due to music producer Michael Haas who inspired and edited the original Decca series.
Breitkopf & Härtel have launched the new Hanns Eisler Collected Edition (HEGA, or Hanns Eisler Gesamtausgabe) with the full score for the Brecht/Eisler musical play, "Die Rundköpfe und die Spitzköpfe" (The Roundheads and the Pointy-Heads). Extensive Eisler scores from the older (and never completed) Eisler Collected Works (EGW) are also available at Breitkopf & Härtel. Sheet Music Plus also sells scores of Eisler's songs and chamber works. Our congratulations to the International Hanns Eisler Societyespecially to the HEGA editorial board (Gert Mattenklott, Christian Martin Schmidt) and editorial team (Friedrike Wißmann, Thomas Ahrend, Tobias Faßhauer)for this achievement. We'll keep you informed about new editions as they are published.
We've expanded our book page to include an important paperback edited by Eric Bentley with the transcripts of Eisler's testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee. It's a major testament to the McCarthy Era's witchhunt for alleged Communists in American arts and academic life, and gives all sides a hearing: the testimony of both those (like Eisler) who refused to cooperate with the committee and those who "named names" are represented, along with the arguments of their interrogators. Our video page has been updated to include new films with Eisler scores that recently have become available on e-commerce sites. Note in particular the documentaries by legendary Dutch director Joris Ivens, and a new release of the pioneering German antiwar drama, "No Man's Land." (Enraged by its pacifist message and multiracial cast, the Nazis destroyed all copies of the German original, but the U.S. version was recently rediscovered and restored.) Our Fourteen Ways page has been revised to replace some recordings that have disappeared from the international CD market. All of the substitute performances are of high quality, and are available at e-commerce sites in the U.S., Britain and Germany. Finally, we've created a new section of Political Folk Music by other artists who reflect Eisler's quest for music engaged in the struggle for social justice.
An exhibition at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Berlin shows artist Horst Dietzel's interpretations of Eisler's early piano music as paintings. "He attempts to draw the music without copying the music," the Foundation reports on its website. The exhibit runs until November 12 at the Foundation's office on Franz-Mehring-Platz.
To mark the 84th anniversary of the murder of Rosa Luxemburg, the Berliner Ensemble is staging the Brecht/Eisler play, "Die Mutter" (The Mother), under the artistic direction of Frederik Zeugke and the musical direction of Roland Kluttig. The lead role will be played by Carmen-Maja Antoni. The première is on January 15, 2003the date still observed in Berlin as "Luxemburg/Liebknecht Day." Visit our vocal music page for information about the two recorded versions of Eisler's "Die Mutter" cantata.
John Willett, the renowned British Brecht scholar, died August 20 in London. Willett deserves much of the credit for the English-speaking world's discovery of Weimar culture after World War II, and wrote definitive translations into English of Brecht's plays and poetryincluding most of the texts set to music by Eisler. English-language performances of Brecht/Eisler songs are usually dependent on translations either by Willett or Brecht scholar Eric Bentley. He was a member of the International Hanns Eisler Society's governing board. For links to obituaries in leading U.S. and British newspapers, visit the International Brecht Society website. For information on books by Willett that can inform those interested in Eisler's music, visit our books page with links to e-commerce sites. We particularly recommend "Art and Politics in the Weimar Period" as an engaging introduction to the culture of the Weimar Republic.
"Perfect Sound Forever," an alternative online music magazine, has posted an article by Joy Calico assessing Eisler as a composer and exporing why he has generally been ignored in the United States.
If you'd like to spread the word about Hanns Eisler and his music, please consider printing out our one-page flyer in PDF (Acrobat Reader) format. Then, bring copies to libraries, college campuses, performances and any other place or event where you think there might be interest. The Hanns Eisler Forum is a non-profit organization, so your help would be appreciated! To print the flyer, you'll need a recent version of Acrobat Reader installed on your computer.
Written by Andy Lang.
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