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Hanns EISLER (1898-1962)
Lieder - Volume 1: Songs and Ballads 1929-1937
Texts by Bertolt Brecht, except tracks 1 (Clement/Mehring) and 20 (Tucholsky)
Holger Falk (baritone), Steffen Schleiermacher (piano)
rec. Konzerthaus der Abtei Marienmünster, Germany
MDG 613 2001-2 [76:13]

The music of Hanns Eisler, whilst not neglected, has in my opinion never really gained the prominence it deserves. This is partly due to his reputation as the first of Schoenberg’s pupils to follow his master in composing a piece in the dodecaphony technique, as well as his communist leaning (he composed the national anthem of the old German Democratic Republic), but also in his refusal to restrict himself to one genre of music. This is borne out in the opening paragraph of the accompanying booklet, which states that “The songs of Hanns Eisler represent a challenge, if only because of the scope of his oeuvre”. His music was coloured by many traditions and his songs are no different. There are those that show the influence of the late romantics, whilst others show his fondness the modern idiom of jazz and cabaret music, something that dismayed Schoenberg. The present disc marks an auspicious start to a proposed series of four discs. It does not aim to present all of Eisler’s songs: he composed around 500 after all. It does set out to present a good cross section of his work, showing why he is regarded as one of the greatest German lieder composers in the twentieth century.

Eisler, a lifelong friend of Bertolt Brecht, composed music for a number of his plays. Brecht also wrote the text for many of his songs; all but two of those presented here have a text by his friend. A number of these songs represent the “News Clippings” style, songs that are satirical, parodying the stories of day. One of these is Das Lied vom Anstreicher Hitler or “The Song of the Painter Hitler”. In this 1933 song, Hitler is portrayed as a bungling painter with no understanding of colour, who can only whitewash over the problems of German society. It is no wonder that both Eisler and Brecht were later forced to flee their home country, not just because of their communist beliefs, but in Eisler’s case being half Jewish. Later Eisler would again face deportation from his adopted country, the USA, due to his political allegiances. There are other satirical songs presented, plus some more late romantic, Zwei Elegien for example. There are also some wonderful songs in the cabaret manner, such as Das Kuppel-Lied and Schlussballade, as well as political songs like Solidaritätslied which calls for all to unite against their masters. All those songs make the disc a comprehensive first volume.

I like Holger Falk’s voice, especially as he changes effortlessly through the different styles represented here. He seems an ideal exponent of this music. A number of the songs are included on some of my other Eisler discs. The Zwei Elegien for example feature on Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s fine collection (4509-97459-2), although that disc mainly concentrates on songs from Eisler’s American period. A few of the songs also appear on Imgard Arnold’s and Gisela May’s Berlin Classics recordings, now collected in an impressive 10 CD box set on Brilliant (9430). I must say, however, that I prefer the deeper tones of the baritone voice over that of the two women. Steffen Schleiermacher proves an excellent pianist and accompanist. His depth of tone adds a lot to these songs. His booklet notes add much to the understanding of Eisler and his music. This is an excellent disc, one which leaves me longing for the subsequent releases.

Stuart Sillitoe
1. Bankenlied
2. Die Ballade vom Wasserrad
3. Lied der Nanna
4. Lied von der belebenden Wirkung des Geldes
5. Das Kuppel-Lied
6. Das “Vielleicht“-Lied
7. Chorlied von der nützlichen Missetat
8. Ändere die Welt, sie braucht es
9. Grabrede für einen Genossen
10. Lob des Lernens
11. Solidaritätslied
12. Die Spaziergänge
13. Sklave, wer wird Dich befreien
14. Oh Falladah, die du da hangest
15. Das Lied vom Anstreicher Hitler
16. Deutsches Lied 1937
17. Stempellied
18. Schlussballade
19.Lied der Mariken
20. Wenn der Igel in der Abendstunde
21. Zwei Elegien - In die Städte kam ich
22. Zwei Elegien - An die Überlebenden
23. Das Lied vom SA-Mann
24. Ballade vom Baum und den Ästen
25. Der Räuber und sein Knecht
26. Ballade vom Soldaten
27. Einheitsfront-Lied 



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