Composer: Hanns Eisler (b. 1898 - d. 1962)
Performance date: 02/07/2017
Venue: St. Brendan’s Church
Composition Year: 1942/3
Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation: Bar-solo, pf
Holger Falk -
Julius Drake - [piano]
and Brecht were part of the extraordinary exodus of the artistic
elite of Vienna and Berlin to Los Angeles beginning in 1933. As soon
as Hitler came to power in 1933, he began banning, arresting and
curtailing the civil liberties of prominent musicians in Germany. His
policies to exterminate Jews, socialists, homosexuals and modernists
became a wider threat as he invaded or took control of Austria,
Czechoslovakia, Poland, France and Hungary. Musicians from these
countries found their work banned, their civil liberties denied and
their means of survival extinguished. The first wave of refugees
sought refuge elsewhere in Europe, but the Depression created
economic barriers to employment and many emigrated to the United
States, where conditions were hardly any better. The Eldorado of the
Los Angeles film industry enticed many musicians to keep heading
west. The actual number of fleeing musicians who ended in LA has not
been counted but it could constitute the greatest migration in
Western musical history to one area in one period for one reason.
and Brecht both had to leave Germany on account of being active
Communists, both of them being specialists in the agitprop theatre
movement in Berlin. Eisler reached the USA via Austria,
Czechoslovakia, Paris, Denmark (where he met up with Brecht), London
and Mexico. Unlike many of the other emigrants, Eisler had experience
of making films and, from 1942-44, collaborated with Adorno on their
for the Films.
Incidentally he received two Academy Award nominations for his film
scores. The title of The
relates specifically to the conflict between Hollywood’s culture
industry and the art song tradition. One culture aimed at mass
entertainment and the other at individual concentration.
was completed in December 1943. Caught between the regimented
brutality of the Nazi regime and the pressure to conform imposed by
the cultural industry, Eisler responds with this musical diary of
exile but also an artistic and political vision. These were the first
art songs he had composed since 1927. His concentrated, objective and
anti-sentimental style accumulates a compelling expressive power not
far away from Schubert’s great song cycles.
final irony saw Eisler deported due to his standing up to the House
of Un-American Activities led by Richard Nixon. His hearing was
described by Martha Gellhorn as a
flawless travesty of justice. Eisler’s
deposition concluded; It
is terrible to think what will come of American art if this committee
can judge which art is American and which un-American. Hitler and
Mussolini attempted just that. They had no success and the committee
to fight un-American activity will also not succeed.
The international issues of commercial and political threats to
music, musicians and composers are still with us.
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