Friday, September 02, 2005

Welcome to our new forums!

Because our forums at Subject: Hanns Eisler crashed, and cannot be repaired, we've created this blog to give you a chance to ask questions, raise issues, or discuss any subject related to composer Hanns Eisler. Your moderators are Jim Miller and Andy Lang. Feel free to post any comment as a response to this note!


At 11:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings Eisler-Enthusiasts,

I am a doctoral student at the University of Maryland and am
currently laying some ground work for a research project on
Eisler's Hollywood Liederbuch that I've wanted to do for some
time. Actually, it was my exposure to Eisler's music at the
2004 Hugo Wolf Akadamie Art Song Competition in Stuttgart that
led to me to this project. The songs and poems of the
Hollywood Liederbuch have haunted me ever sense and have led
me to discover and come to love many other Eisler
compositions, especially his chamber music. If I may, I would
like to simply post my current research ideas and ask if you
might offer some considerations that might occur to you.

The following excerpt from Grove's first sparked an idea:

"In May 1942 Eisler moved to Hollywood and [...]set numerous
new Brecht poems on the subject of exile in an individual
and personal idiom which is an intriguing amalgam of the style
of the 1925–6 Zeitungsausschnitte and the Massenlieder – an
original continuation of the German lied tradition."

This statement really led me to consider how Eisler had indeed
carried on this tradition. As you probably know, after originally
shunning the art form as bourgeois and elitist (thus the
Zeitungsausschnitte), he came to embrace the tradition as it
came to serve his purposes in exile. Or at least it seems
that he warmed up to the Lied, albeit not writing for the
concert hall per se.

With the large amount of resources available regarding
Eisler's compositions and writings on film music, it is
disappointing to find such precious little in English
regarding these highly personal and poignant songs. It is
helpful that I am able enough in German to be able to use
many German sources, like "Das Schwierige Handwerk des Hoffens" by C. Albert, Heister's "Hollywood und Heimat" as well as Betz's Eisler und Holderlin in Hollywood."

I need to narrow my research a bit but don't want to re-invent the wheel here. One idea was for me to juxtapose the Zeitungsausschnitte cycle with the Holderlin Fragmente with the idea of pointing out the tremendous contribution Eisler made to the Lied genre. This I think is the point that I wish to make in any case, for I am convinced that this contribution was immense and attention should be paid to his Lied (among other) compositions.

Any thoughts from moderators and/or lurkers are more than welcome. Ich dannke Ihnen schon im Voraus!

Mit freundlichen Grüssen,
Michael Mentzel

At 4:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Michael, and welcome to the rarefied field of US Eisler lovers

I encourage you to write any- and everything about the Hollywood Liederbuch in English. You might consider contacting Peter Siche through the Hanns Eisler Gesselschaft, who has done extensive work on these songs, and who compares them to the Winterreisse (an entirely apt comparison). The point I would make about this work is that it is smack dab in the middle of European art song tradition. Eisler completely knew his stuff compositionally, and there is no question that these songs are at the pinnacle of mid-twentieth century achievement in vocal writing. The reasons they are not better known are entirely extra-musical, and have to do with the politics of post-war American life...cold war, etc. There will come a day when these songs will be recognized as the masterly achievement they are, and in the meantime, we just have to make sure they are listened to.


At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree in the genius of the Hollywood songbook. I am a German and Vocal student in Los Angeles who just returned from studying in Vienna. I just happened to run into them while researching for a project and I fell in love with Brecht's poetry. I have become very interested in the whole topic of the mass emigration to Los Angeles from Vienna during the war and I plan do learn and present much more including a lecture recital in the fall. Any information anyone could provide would be of great help!

FYI some of the information on the discography of this website is wrong. Strauss was believed to be "pro-Nazi" when he really wasn't. He was most definitely not anti-Nazi (they certainly helped his career) but after censors caught some of his letters with anti-Nazi sentiments, he was musically boycotted. It was then he started playing buddies with the Reich in order to continue composing with his Jewish collaborators and to protect his Jewish daughter-in-law and grandchildren from persecution. If you are looking for a composer who was a little more pro-Nazi, you might want to look into Joseph Marx. He didn't seem to have put much effort against the Reich...but I would have to do more research.

At 9:34 PM, Blogger Meredith said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:39 PM, Blogger Meredith said...

Dear Michael,
An interesting quote popped into my head as I read your comment. Joseph Marx, a traditionalist Lieder composer took it upon himself to continue the tradition of the Lied from Wolf. According to the website dedicated to Marx (that also has a lot of talk about his connections with the Third Reich), Marx supposedly said composers like himself and Wolf "actually wrote Lieder because it was the fashionable thing to do."
You might include this thought in your presentation of the Eisler songs. While in LA, Eisler was barely scraping by while writing for the film industry. In Vienna, other great Lieder composers like Marx, Wolf and Strauss were greatly motivated by the sales of their publications. In Los Angeles, however, even with its huge German-speaking population, there was not have a high demand for Lieder. Unlike his predecessors, his output of songs must have been purely and artistic effort without concern of censorship or for pleasing his audience…interesting food for thought.

At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Concerning Michael Mentzel's contribution: when considering Eisler's Hölderlin settings, it would be necessary to look very carefully at his discussion of H. in his conversations with Bunge (which have been available both on records and in book form) and of course at the magnificent orchestrated settings of H.'s poems in his last work, *Ernste Gesänge*, where they provide the backbone of the whole cycle as its necessary historical and spiritual perspective.

At 1:24 AM, Blogger lieder_gern said...

Dear Eisler Enthusiasts,
First of all, thank you for your comments on my original post. I am ashamed to say that, after several months of no posts or replies, I assumed that there was no interest "out there" and haven't visited the forum since. This evening I was contacted by Richard Nangle of the IHEG and was happy to hear that my post had been received and commented on by others.

I am doing a doctoral lecture recital on December 1 here at the University of Maryland and for which I am currently in the throes of research. I would love to hear back from some of you on my ideas and, if any of you are within reasonable traveling distance, have you attend the lecture recital. In any case, I will make another post shortly.

Please forgive my long absence, which is in no way to be misconstrued as a diminishing of my passion for the research and performance of Eisler's music.

Bis bald,
Michael Mentzel

At 7:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I realize many of us do not visit this forum very often, but despite this I hope to initiate some discussions from time to time. One topic that has come up frequently for me has been the issue of how to perform Eisler's songs.

With meticulous instructions such as "Very plain, simple: to be performed without any parody, humor, joking, etc..." and "It does not depend on [the singer's] inner life, rather he should concern himself to refer the listeners to the content than to express it," how should a singer interpret the songs honestly without disrupting the what might be viewed as the Brechtian Verfremdung which Eisler intended?

A further clue is found in conversations with Bunge, in which Eisler remarked "Whoever understands how to avoid sentimentality, bombast, pathos and all kinds of stupidity, to recite the text well but nevertheless to sing it, will sing them well." And later "First of all, one should have a good voice, great musicality and something I call 'musical intelligence.' This means, the text has to be sung 'controversially.'"

I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter, especially those who have sung Eisler or seen Eisler's songs performed.

Michael Mentzel

At 4:17 PM, Blogger Andy Lang said...

Michael, thanks for your question. I think it's a great one to consider.

I'm not a musician, so I can only throw in my opinion based on having heard numerous recorded performances of Eisler's lieder.

I'm not sure that Eisler's performance rubrics are aimed at "Verfremdung." If they were, the songs would be performed in the wooden, robotic style of many GDR-era performances of Brecht's plays. Obviously, he wants the performer to get out the way, to be transparent in relation to the content, but not to be simply a reciting machine.

I think Gisela May's style of interpretion is instructive. Of course, these were mostly of his songs for Brecht's plays. But it's important to remember that May was "discovered" by Eisler and her's was exactly the kind of gravelly, throaty, unpolished sound Eisler and Brecht favored. But there's a lot of energy, even passion, to her delivery. But still she is self-controlled in relation to the text: you can imagine the difference if, say, Barbara Streisand were interpreting the same songs.

So I think Eisler was making an aesthetic rather than an ideological move: he simply didn't like egocentric delivery of any music: he wanted the performer to defer to the composer (and the poet). That's my opinion.

At 9:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your question Michael has prompted me to ask a further question that I am confused about. I know Eisler's Die Massnahme was intended to be modelled on the Christian Oratorio form, but does this include the performance of it as well? After all Oratorios were not inteded to have scenery, and be staged as such, but is this what Eisler wanted with Die Massnahme?

At 1:46 PM, Blogger brisante Thesen said...

Great website! Thanks so much!

At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have only recently become a fan of Eisler's music via the Dagmar Krause album 'Tank Battles' and find it extremely compelling stuff. There is a song on that album called 'Der Graben' / 'The Trenches' (words by Kurt Tucholsky I think) - if somebody could direct me to a score for this song, I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks for your website,

At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 3:17 PM, Blogger Bens said...

I'm not yet familiar of Eisler's music but I heard a lot of good reviews about him. Anyway, can I use this for my superiorpapers site? Thanks!

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous Richard said...


Can anyone tell me if its ok to write a new text to "the song of Moldau" and use it in a amature play for free. Or who I'm suposed to contact if I need to pay för the rights. Please answer to my mail. forsbergrichard(at)

regards / Richard

At 9:08 PM, Blogger Die Storung Events Austin said...

Hello Eisler Folks,
Wonderful discussion thread. I am working on a project in NYC that uses Eisler as its figurehead and is attempting to bring together artists, advocates for undocumented worker rights and folks in the beauty industry...(

Our current promotional events entail a sort of neo-agitprop rendering of some of his songs... watch our first rehearsal video if you have a chance at:

I am interested in the same question asked by a previous post pertaining to performance practice in the early Brecht/Eisler plays Die Mutter and Die Massnahme... Anyone in the NYC area knowledgeable about the oratorio style presentation of these works? Want to coach some performance art??? Or just refer us to good readings? My email is


At 11:38 AM, Blogger naomifearon said...

Hello All,

I'm an undergraduate student at the University of Bristol, and am in the process of writing a dissertation on Hanns Eisler - notably his Deutsche Sinfonie. I'm approaching this from a historical/social/political perspective, largely because I'm terrible at deep musical analysis!
Currently trying to write an opening chapter which is a more general introduction to Hanns Eisler as a political musician and any help would be greatly appreciated. Of particular importance at the moment is how his compositional output changed when he returned to Europe after his exile from the States, and why?

Does anyone have any useful suggestions of what to read, watch, or just any enlightening knowledge?!
Also, anyone know of anywhere on line where I could find the TV show that was made in the late 90s (Solidarity Song: the Hanns Eisler Story [or something like that])

Many many thanks in advance,
Naomi Fearon

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At 1:59 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hello, Eisler lovers!!!!
I'm currently a Junior in college, studying classical voice and theatre. I just discovered Eisler a few weeks ago with Supply and Demand off of Dagmar Krause's album, and was utterly enchanted by Abortion is Illegal, which led to a frenzy of devouring everything of his I could get my hands on. I'm currently singing "Supply and Demand" at my Junior recital, and am in the process of writing a research grant to study Eisler's music in Berlin

The aim of my research is to study Eisler and his contribution to the German art song tradition, as well as the similarity between his popular music and american folk artists of the 60's. sort of a looking-back-looking-forward deal . I was wondering if y'all knew who any of the authorities on Eisler are today, and where I could read some of their writings. Any work relating to Eisler and the lied, Eisler and his contemporaries (brecht/weill) I'd also like to know all of your favorite Eisler works!



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