Eisler, Hanns (Johannes)

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Eisler, Hanns (Johannes)

Eisler, Hanns (Johannes), remarkable German composer; b. Leipzig, July 6, 1898; d. Berlin, Sept. 6, 1962. He began to study music on his own while still a youth, then studied with Weigl at the New Vienna Cons, and later privately with Schoenberg (1919–23); he also worked with Webern. In 1924 he won the Vienna Arts Prize. He went to Berlin in 1925 and taught at the Klindworth-Scharwenka Cons. In 1926 he joined the German Communist Party; after the Nazis came to power in 1933, he left Germany; made visits to the U.S. and was active in Austria, France, England, and other European countries. He taught at the New School for Social Research in N.Y. (1935–36; 1937–42) and at the Univ. of Calif, in Los Angeles (1942–48); then left the U.S. under the terms of ’Voluntary deportation” on account of his Communist sympathies. In 1949 he settled in East Berlin and became a prof, at the Hochschule für Musik and a member of the German Academy of the Arts. Under Schoenberg’s influence, Eisler adopted the 12-tone method of composition for most of his symphonic works. However, he demonstrated a notable capacity for writing music in an accessible style. His long association with Bertolt Brecht resulted in several fine scores for the theater; he also worked with Charlie Chaplin in Hollywood (1942–47). His songs and choral works became popular in East Germany. He composed the music for the East German national anthem, Auferstanden aus Ruinen, which was adopted in 1949. His writings include Composing for the Films (withT. Adorno; N.Y, 1947), Reden und Aufsdtze (Berlin, 1959), and Materialen zu einer Dialektik der Musik (Berlin, 1973).G. Mayer ed. his Musik und Politik (2 vols., Berlin, 1973 and Leipzig, 1982). A collected ed. of his compositions and writings was undertaken by the German Academy of the Arts in East Berlin in association with the Hanns Eisler Archive.


DRAMATIC Johannes Faustus, opera (Berlin, March 11, 1953); some 38 scores of incidental music, to works by Brecht (Rote Revue, 1932; Die Rundkopfe und die Spitzkopfe, 1934–36; Furcht und Elend des dritten Reiches, 1945; Galileo Galilei, 1947; Tage der Kommune, 1950; Die Gesichte der Simone Machard, 1957; Schweyk im zweiten Weltkrieg, 1943–59), by Feuchtwanger (Kalkutta, 4Mai, 1928), by Ernst Toller (Feuer aus den Kesseln, 1934; Peace on Earth, 1934), by Ben Jonson (Volpone, 1953), by Aristophanes (Lysistrata, 1954), by Shakespeare (Hamlet, 1954), by Schiller (Wilhelm Tell, 1961), etc.; some 42 film scores (None but the Lonely Heart, 1944; Woman on the Beach, 1947; Der Rat der Cotter, 1950; Fidelia, 1956; The Witches of Salem, 1957; Trube Wasser, 1959; etc.). ORCH.: 6 orch. suites drawn from films (1930–33); other orch. works drawn from films and stage pieces, including 5 Orchesterstucke (1938); Kammersinfonie (1940). CHAMBER : 3 piano sonatas (1923, 1924, 1943); Divertimento for Wind Quintet (1923); Duo for Violin and Cello (1924); Piano Sonatine (1934); Praludium und Fuge tiber BACH for String Trio (1934); Sonata for Flute, Oboe, and Harp (1935); Violin Sonata (1937); String Quartet (1938); 2 nonets (1939, 1941); 2 septets (1940, 1947); 14 Arten, den Regen zu beschreiben for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, and Piano (1940); piano albums for children, etc. VOCAL: C h o r u s an d O r c h . : Tempe der Zeit, cantata (1929); Die Massnahme (1930); Die Mutter (1931); Kalifornische Ballade, cantata (1934; based on a radio score); Deutsche Sinfonie for Soloists, 2 Speakers, Chorus, and Orch. (Paris, June 25, 1937); Lenin, Requiem (1936–37); Mitte des Jahrhunderts, cantata (1950); Bilder aus der “Kriegsfibel” (1957). V o i c e and O r c h . : Gliickliche Fahrt for Soprano and Orch. (1946); Rhapsodie for Soprano and Orch. (1949); Die Teppichweber von Kujan-Bulak, cantata for Soprano and Orch. (1957); Es lachelt der See for Soprano, Tenor, and Orch. (1961); Ernste Gesange, 7 songs for Baritone and Strings (1936–62). OTHER: Works for Voice and Smaller Ensembles, including 9 works entitled Kammerkantate (1937); many songs with piano.


H. Brockhaus, H. E. (Leipzig, 1961); N. Notowicz, H.E.: Quellennachweise (Leipzig, 1966); H. Bunge, Fragen Sie mehr tiber Brecht: H. E. im Gesprach (Munich, 1970); E. Klemm, H. E.: Fur Sie portratiert (Leipzig, 1973); A. Betz, H. E.: Musik einer Zeit (Munich, 1976; Eng. tr., 1982, as H. E.: Political Musician); M. Grabs, H. E.: Kompositionen, Schriften, Literatur: Ein Handbuch (Leipzig, 1984); D. Blake, H. E.: A Miscellany (London, 1995); J. Schebera, H. E.: Eine Biographie in Texten, Bildern und Dokumenten (Mainz, 1998).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire