Samstag, 17. September 2016

Hanns Eisler - Deutsche Symphonie (Guhl, 1974)

Hanns Eisler is an anomaly among 20th-century composers in that he managed to merge strident political content with gorgeous music without sounding didactic or preachy. His early worker's anthems, far from being mere propaganda, stand on their own as sophisticated compositions; they're pocket symphonies that you can sing along with. Eisler cut his teeth studying with Schoenberg in the early 1920s, but soon thereafter broke with his teacher, feeling that his high-minded dodecaphony alienated the working man. The irony, however, was that Eisler never totally abandoned these high-art tendencies, instead subtly incorporating them into everything he did. Like Kurt Weill, Eisler's political proclivities brought him into contact with Bertolt Brecht and the two became close collaborators for many years.

Deutsche Sinfonie, written in the mid-30s, finds them paired in one of Eisler's more conservative orchestral settings, blatantly tipping its hat to the 12-tone crew. In this group of vocal pieces, Brecht's lyrics remain scathing, once again slyly subverting the concert hall tradition in true Eisler style. Eisler uses Brcht´s poetic image of Germany as a "besmirched, pale mother" in the prelude (which cites the "Internatinale" and "Unsterbliche Opfer", a song dedicated to the memory of concentration camp victims) to describe the suffering inflicted by German hands. In the passacaglia of the second part, the lament takes on more concrete form to become a condemnation of Nazi terror in the concentration camps (the work´s original title was "Konzentrationslagersymphonie"). The fourth part with Brecht´s "Zu Potsdam unter den Eichen" dras attention to facism´s extremist roots, while the orchestral funeral procession in the fith part, based on Brecht´s poem "Sonnenburg" addresses the idescribable suffering of the victims. The seventh part (after Brecht´s "Begräbnis des Hetzers im Zinksarg") exposes fascist propaganda in its truel colours. A "peasant cantata" with the rousing "Bauer steh auf" is folowed by the "worker´s cantata" based on the "Lied vom Klassenfeind", which Brecht wrote in exile. The following orchestral movement gives musical expression to the dialectics of pain and confidence, whereupon the eleven-movement opus ends with an epilogue after a four-line verse from Brecht´s "Kriegsfiebel".

This album features the recordings with Elisabeth Breul, Hermann Hähnel and Fred Teschler accompanied by the  Rundfunkchor Leipzig and the Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester Leipzig, conducted by Adolf Fritz Guhl. The speaking voices were done by Ekkehard Schall and Hilmar Thate. This album was released in 1974 by ETERNA and later by NOVA and was replaced in 1987 with a newer recording conducted by Max Pommer.

Hanns Eisler - Deutsche Symphonie (Guhl, 1974)
(192 kbps, front cover included)

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