Hanns Eisler: Music

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O Fallada, There You Are Hanging RealAudio Buy
Bertolt Brecht. Sung by Gisela May.

Gisela May The singer and actress Gisela May, born 1924, was "discovered" by Hanns Eisler during a performance at Brecht's Berliner Ensemble in the late 1950s. Since then, she has become one of the definitive performers of songs by Eisler, Weill and Dessau.
Brecht's 1919 poem "O Fallada, There You Are Hanging: A Horse's Accusation" was written in the context of postwar famine and revolution. It was adapted by Eisler in 1932 for a cabaret revue. Fallada was a horse in a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. The poem may have been based on news reports of crowds of hungry Berliners carving up the corpses of police horses that had fallen during street fighting.

I tugged at my wagon, though I felt so feeble
And stopped in a street in our East End.
I stood there and thought: My friend,
you are so feeble. If you don't make an effort
you'll start collapsing
in front of all these people—
Twenty minutes later
I was nothing but a heap of bones
in the roadway!

And while I was lying collapsed in the darkness
(my driver ran to telephone)
a horde of hungry people appeared
out of the doorways, started frantically trying
each to be first to cut the meat from my carcase
and they saw that I was still alive, and very far from
finished with dying.

But all these people, I thought, were once my familiars.
They used to bring sacks to help me keep off the flies,
gave me old crusts to eat, and came up to advise
my driver that he must not beat me.
Once so kind-hearted, and now they're turned to killers!
What on earth can they have been through that would
make them change their ways so completely?

That led me to ask: who has sent such coldness
right into the heart of the human race?
What's blowing into their face
so as to make them grow so freezing?
Please come to their aid, and act now with boldness,
or the consequences could well be beyond all reason.

Music sample © 1994 edel GmbH. Translation by John Willett in Bertolt Brecht: Poems 1913-1956 © 1990 by Methuen London.

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