Sonntag, 26. Juni 2022

Hanns Eisler - Deutsche Sinfonie (Gewandhausorchester Leipzig)

At various times "Deutsche Sinfonie" for soloists, chorus & orchestra, Op. 50 has variously been dubbed a "concentration camp symphony" or an "anti-Hitler symphony." This provocative work for chorus, soloists, and orchestra by Hans Eisler is in 11 sections, and was mostly written from 1935 through 1957. Eight movements have words by Bertold Brecht, and the eighth movement also contains portions from Ignazio Silone's novel "Bread and Wine" (1936). The Deutsche Sinfonie's history can also be viewed as biographical of the composer's tumultuous life.

The first movement is a "Präludium (Prelude)" which introduces the BACH motif in simple counterpoint, along with other central images of the work. Movement 2 is titled "An die Kämpfer in den Konzentrationslagern" (To the fighters in the concentration camps) and is a passacaglia based again on the BACH motif with 12-tone writing in the upper registers. The text praises the unshakeable courage of comrades in the camps: An "Etude für Orchester" follows with hints of military rhythms, and canonic lines. Eisler stated that his objectives in this work were to "convey grief without sentimentality, and struggle without the use of militaristic music." The 4th movement, "Erinnerung (Potsdam) [Remembrance (Potsdam)]" describes the grim scene of an anti-war protest, brilliantly portrayed in the music. The fifth movement, dramatically punctuated with luminous orchestration, is titled "In Sonnenburg" (which ironically means "Sun City"). The text here concerns a concentration camp in which both prisoners and guards went hungry. The "Intermezzo für Orchester" follows. The seventh movement is "Begräbnis des Hetzers im Zinksarg (Burial of the Troublemaker in a Zinc Coffin)". The trouble-maker in this case asked for enough to eat, a dry place to live, that his children be fed, and that he be paid his exact wages. The chorus first enters in a forte chorus in Classical style on the words "Denn er war ein Hetzer. Begrabt ihn! Begrabt ihn! (Because he was a troublemaker. Bury him! Bury him!)." And at the end, in dramatic minor harmonies punctuated in triplet rhythm by the instruments, the chorus states that "wer sich solidarisch erklärt mit allen Unterdrückten, der soll von nun an bis in die Ewigkeit in das Zink kommen wie dieser da"(whoever proclaims his solidarity with all who are oppressed - from now on throughout eternity he will be put into a zinc box like this one). In contrast to the previous movements, the 8th movement, a "Bauernkantate (Peasant Cantata)" in 4 sections, describes everyday experiences which give rise to the realizations that inform humanist impulses. The third movement is a stroke of expressive genius, entitled "Flüstergespräche (Melodram) [Dialogue in whispers]." It is a conversation in theatrical whispers about trials that are forever delayed. The whispering by two voices is heard in front of a subdued, ethereal humming chorus and sustaining orchestra playing 12-tone material, to stunning effect. The last section of Movement 8 is a "Bauernliedchen," a peasant's little song of encouragement and resistance. The 9th Movement, "Arbeiterkantate" (A Worker's Cantata), describes in the first person the gradual realization of society's inherent class struggle. Falling rain is used throughout as a metaphor describing social and natural consequences, the class-enemy trying to convince people that the rain can fall upward to the clouds (by false democracy, by maintaining fear and false enemies, etc.). Movement 10 is an "Allegro for Orchestra" which intrically varies the BACH motif. The final Movement 11 is an "Epilogue" extracted from Eisler's work "Bilder aus der Kriegsfibel (Pictures from the Primer on War)" and is a plea to save children from the literal cold and the coldness of man's previous acts.

Hanns Eisler - Deutsche Sinfonie (Gewandhausorchester Leipzig)
(192 kbps, front cover included)

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