Zeisl, Eric(h), Austrian-born American composer; b. Vienna, May 18,1905; d. Los Angeles, Feb. 18,1959. A son of prosperous parents who owned a coffeehouse, he entered the Vienna Academy of Music at 14. He was a pupil of Richard Stöhr, Joseph Marx, and Hugo Kauder, and publ. his first songs at the age of 16. In 1934 he won the Austrian State Prize for his Requiem concertante. After the seizure of Austria by the Nazis in 1938, he fled to Paris, and at the outbreak of World War II in 1939, went to the U.S.: in 1941 he settled in Los Angeles; in 1945 he became a naturalized American citizen. He taught at the Southern Calif. School of Music; from 1949 until his death he was on the staff at Los Angeles City Coll. Increasingly conscious in exile of his Jewish heritage, he selected biblical themes for his stage works; death interrupted the composition of his major work, the music drama Job; Hebraic cantillation is basic to this period. His style of composition reflects the late Romantic school of Vienna, imbued with poetic melancholy, with relief provided by eruptions of dancing optimism. He was at his best in his song cycles.
dramatic: DRAMATIC: Die Fahrt ins Wunderland, children’s opera (Vienna, 1934); Léonce und Lena, Singspiel (1937; Los Angeles, 1952); Job, opera (1939-11; 1957-59; unfinished); Pierrot in der Flasche, ballet (Vienna Radio, 1935); Uranium 235, ballet (1946); Naboth’s Vineyard, ballet (1953); Jacob und Rachel, ballet (1954). ORCH.: Kleine Symphonie (Vienna Radio, May 30, 1937); Passacaglia-Fantasie (Vienna, Nov. 4, 1937); November, suite for Chamber Orch. (N.Y., Jan. 25, 1941); Cossack Dance (from the unfinished opera Job, Los Angeles, Aug. 18, 1946); Return of Ulysses, suite for Chamber Orch. (Chicago, Nov. 17, 1948); Variations and Fugue on Christmas Carols (1950); Piano Concerto (1951); Concerto grosso for Cello and Orch. (1956). CHAMBER: Violin Sonata (1950); Viola Sonata (1950); Cello Sonata (1951); Trio for Flute, Viola, and Harp (1956). VOCAL: Mondbilder for Baritone and Orch. (1928); Requiem ebraico (1945); Kinderlieder for Soprano; 6 Lieder for Baritone.
M. Cole and B. Barclay, Armseelchen: The Life and Music ofE. Z.(Westport, Conn., 1984).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire