Hanns Eisler

Eisler expert Matthias Goerne and other first-class guests reveal insights into Eisler’s oeuvre – starting with one of his most important works, the »Deutsche Sinfonie«

Twelve-tone technique and workers’ song, communism and Hollywood: Hanns Eisler’s life and work unite the seemingly incompatible. The Schoenberg pupil discovered early on that writing music for its own sake was not enough for him. This prompted him to set poems and plays by Bertolt Brecht from 1930 until the latter’s death; while in exile in the USA he wrote film music, and after his return to Europe he became one of East Germany’s showcase composers. But this exciting and versatile composer cannot be pigeonholed, as the Elbphilharmonie’s three-day Eisler spotlight shows.

The Eisler spotlight in the Elbphilharmonie is complemented by the scenic-musical portrait »Exil in Hollywood« in the Nachtasyl of the Thalia Theatre: Go to the event

One of today’s keenest advocates of Eisler’s music is Matthias Goerne. The baritone with the dark, velvety voice has already devoted many concerts and CDs to the Austrian composer, whose mastery he believes to be equal to that of Schubert. So there is no way he would miss the opportunity to play a central role in the homage to Eisler.

Two of the most important works from Eisler’s exile years are on the programme: »Deutsche Sinfonie« and the »Hollywood Songbook«. The »Deutsche Sinfonie« in particular, which Eisler started work on in the 1930s but which was not performed until 1959, represented »a work of resistance« for the composer: a sign that Germany was not only Nazi Germany, that there were other political and cultural voices that spoke for the country – from the underground, from concentration camps and exile.

Setting texts by Bertolt Brecht and Ignazio Silone, Eisler lets these voices speak in his eleven-movement symphony through orchestra, choir and soloists, making a powerful musical statement against fascism and war.

In the last composition he completed – »Ernste Gesänge« (Serious Songs), the composer shows himself from a very different side, with music that is deeply touching in its simplicity and humanity.