Montag, 8. Januar 2018

Hanns Eisler - Kammermusik - Chamber Music (Berlin Classics)


Berlin Classics' "Hanns Eisler: Kammermusik" represents a gathering of chamber music from 1920 to 1947, recorded between 1965 and 1973 as part of a comprehensive recording of all of Eisler's music as undertaken by the East German Eterna label.

It ranges from the pithy, discordant but tonally concluded Scherzo for string trio of 1920 to the elegant and witty music Eisler composed for Charlie Chaplin's film "The Circus", a commission interrupted by Eisler's enforced departure from the United States courtesy of the House of Un-American Activities Committee. It also includes some lieder; Eisler's deliciously funny cycle "Newspaper Clippings" (1925-1927), sung with character and an innate understanding of Second Vienna School songcraft by soprano Roswitha Trexler. Eisler deliberately picked texts out of the daily newspaper in direct retaliation to the conservative, symbolist poets - such as Stefan George - favored by Eisler's colleagues in the Second Vienna School. As these texts are drawn from non-standard literary sources, it would have been wonderful if Berlin Classics could have included them -- even in German only - in the booklet, but they do not. Ditto for the deliberately silly Christian Morgenstern text used in Eisler's "Palmström", really not so much a formal song setting as an experimental twelve-tone composition with an added part for voice.

Among the purely instrumental pieces heard here are another string trio; a sonata for flute, oboe, and harp; a violin and piano sonata; a nonet; and the aforementioned Circus. Of these, the last-named work is decidedly the most ingratiating and immediate, but the others begin to grow on one as well. Even though Eisler's language in some of these pieces is technically atonal, he utilizes gestures and sequences that sound familiar and some passages can even be described as "catchy." The Eterna Eisler recording project had the support of the East German government - Eisler was considered a cultural figurehead in that regime, even though when he lived there, they provided Eisler little opportunity to work - and no expenses were spared in this project. The performances here are all top-drawer and the 1960s- and '70s-era recordings don't sound in the least dated.

All of these pieces included here also appear on the Hanns Eisler six-CD box set on Berlin Classics of his instrumental music, though not on the same disc, nor in the same sequence. If six CDs are simply too much and one only desires a sample of Eisler's chamber music, this is an excellent choice.

 Hanns Eisler - Kammermusik - Chamber Music (Berlin Classics)
(192 kbps, cover art included)
       

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