Illuminating Sounds #2: Hanns Eisler, Life & Art in Exile

Listen to our second music playlist of 2019, featuring music by Hanns Eisler, one of Europe’s most gifted mid-century composers, and whose work will be featured in Hell’s Fury, The Hollywood Songbooka new music theatre production presented by Luminato & Soundstreams in 2019.

Feb 18, 2019 | BY: Jorge Ayala-Isaza

Hanns Eisler's musical output was quite prolific. In total, he created 15 orchestra works, 50 choruses, 23 chamber music works, 20 cantatas, about 250 Lieder, 37 stage works and 39 film scores. During the Cold War, he was mostly known for well publicized hearings before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and subsequent deportation from the United States, as well as being the composer of the National anthem for East Germany (DDR).

The Piano Sonatas No.1 & 2, correspond to his more experimental period as a pupil of Arnold Schoenberg. While living in Berlin, he collaborated with Bertolt Brecht, and 1932 they premiered their second musical play "Die Mutter" (The Mother). Eisler resisted writing "pure" classical music: Germany was in the grip of revolutionary turmoil, and battles between Nazi and Communist paramilitary groups became stronger. The Brecht-Eisler "Solidarity Song" (part of the soundtrack for the 1931 film Kuhle Wampe—or Who Owns the World?) became an instant revolutionary hit.

Hangmen Also Die! is a 1943 film noir directed by Fritz Lang and co-written by Bertolt Brecht, loosely based on the 1942 assassination of Reinhard Heydrich the number-two man in the SS, and a chief architect of the Holocaust, also known as "The Hangman of Prague." Eisler's alternative film music to selected excerpts from The Grapes of Wrath (the original film score was composed by Alfred Newman) as part of research work made for the Rockefeller Film Music Project, which resulted in the publication of the book (in collaboration with Theodor Adorno) Composing for Film (1947).

Auferstanden aus Ruinen (Risen from Ruins) was the national anthem of East Germany (the German Democratic Republic or DDR) during its existence from 1949 to 1990. The lyrics were written by Johannes R. Becher.

Hell's Fury, The Hollywood Songbook, is co-presented by Soundstreams and will be staged on June 19-23, 2019 at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre. 

Listen to the Luminato curated Spotify playlist featuring works by Hanns Eisler and explore his music.

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