Hanns Eisler

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Hanns Eisler, 1940

Hanns Eisler (born July 6, 1898 in Leipzig as Johannes Eisler ; died September 6, 1962 in Berlin ) was an Austrian composer who, in addition to his musical works , left behind a number of music-theoretical and influential political writings, as well as a libretto .

Alongside Alban Berg and Anton Webern, Eisler is considered to be one of the later better-known students of Arnold Schönberg and - despite temporary differences in content from his teacher - is assigned to the Second Vienna School . Politically and artistically, he was the closest companion of the playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht , with whom he was personally and musically connected from the end of the 1920s until his death. He created some of his most famous works together with Brecht. Eisler left piano and orchestral works, a series of chamber music compositions, numerous stage and film scores as well as more than 500 songs from the workers song to the twelve-tone composed art songs rich. In the 1940s, together with Theodor W. Adorno , he wrote a book on film music , composition for film , which could be classified as a standard work for the time . From 1954 Hanns Eisler developed the “ Störtebeker Festival ” in Ralswiek on the island of Rügen, which is still popular today, with the dancer and choreographer Jean Weidt .

Because of his Jewish origins and his communist beliefs, Eisler was in exile during the 1930s and 1940s. After brief stays in various European countries, Mexico and the USA in particular were his most important stations as an exile. He held professorships at the universities of New York and Los Angeles. In the early stages of the Cold War era, the first two proceedings against him and his brother Gerhart Eisler were carried out before the Committee for Un-American Activities after the Second World War in 1947 . This led to Hanns Eisler's expulsion from the United States and his return to Europe - via Prague first to Vienna and then on to Berlin.

From 1949 until his death Eisler lived in the eastern part of Berlin , where he led the master class for composition at the German Academy of the Arts . He is the composer of the GDR anthem , for which he received the national first class prize. The relationship between the GDR government and Eisler was changeable despite his high reputation. He remained an Austrian citizen until the end of his life .

Birth and childhood

Hanns Eisler's birthplace, Hofmeisterstraße 14 (left) - (2009)

Born in Leipzig as the third child of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Eisler (1873–1926) and Ida Maria Eisler, née Fischer (1876–1929), he grew up in an educated middle class , but, as he himself writes, in very poor circumstances. His first name is entered as Johannes in the birth register. Eisler later called himself "Hanns". His father came from a long-established Bohemian-Jewish bourgeois family, his mother from a Swabian peasant family and was a butcher's daughter. Her father was a socialist and an avid admirer of August Bebel . There was neither money for music lessons nor an own piano. Eisler had to teach himself the musical knowledge.

His two older siblings were Elfriede, who later called herself Ruth Fischer (1895–1961) and was chairwoman of the KPD for a short time in the 1920s , and Gerhart Eisler (1897–1968), who later held leading positions in the GDR radio . Eisler felt himself to be Austrian and Viennese throughout his life.

Eisler's birthplace at Hofmeisterstraße 14 in Leipzig was formerly located directly opposite the Krystallpalast . Left to decay for decades, it has since been renovated and in 2017 a memorial plaque for Hanns Eisler was unveiled at the house where he was born.

Childhood and youth in Vienna (1901–1916)

In 1901 the family moved to Vienna. As an atheist , Rudolf Eisler could not get a job at Vienna University and supported his family as a private scholar and with the support of his brother, who was a lawyer. Hanns Eisler attended elementary school in the third district of Vienna from 1904 to 1908 , and at home the children were introduced to music very early on. The father sang and played the piano. At the Catholic Rasumofsky-Gymnasium in what was then Sophienbrückengasse (today Kundmanngasse), Hanns Eisler began to occupy himself more intensively with music; he wrote his first compositions at the age of ten.

"[...] My studies actually began when, at the age of 10, I bought a general music course from Herrmann Wolff from Reclam's universal library [...]."

All of this happened without a piano or with friends, as his father could no longer afford the piano for financial reasons. These early compositions have been lost; the first works are only known from 1917. At the age of 14 Eisler began attending concerts and operas. Despite his somewhat plump and small stature, Eisler was an enthusiastic football player on the Jesuitenwiese in Vienna's Prater , near his parents' apartment at Schüttelstrasse 19a.

Eisler graduated from grammar school rather reluctantly, his certificates were just sufficient. In it his religious affiliation was described as non-denominational, having left Judaism in 1914 . Only the grade in gymnastics was "good".

At the age of 14 Eisler joined the organization of socialist secondary school students, Albrecht Betz later described him as follows: […] Eisler's later famous quick wit and wit, the unusual speed of his way of thinking and speaking, the pleasure in divergence and contradictions, he should already be in Have trained and educated the Socialist Middle School Talking Club. [...]

War years (1916–1918)

This picture shows Hanns Eisler in war uniform (military coat), he looks from right to left.
Hanns Eisler, 1917

In 1916 Eisler's school days ended with the completion of the Obersekunda, thus one year before the Matura , when the eighteen-year-old received the draft order. Since his brother Gerhart published an anti-war magazine in 1914, the whole family was considered politically suspect and was under surveillance by the secret police. Eisler was called up to a Hungarian infantry regiment after he had been punished twice for failing to order in the Wrschowitz Reserve Officers School , a suburb of Prague.

Eisler found this time to be extremely physically demanding because he was small in stature. In addition, he was repeatedly accused of his "political unreliability" on record as a socialist. The fact that he had to serve in a Hungarian regiment had to do with the fact that the language differences that prevailed there were intended to prevent possible political agitation by Eisler.

During these two years Eisler devoted himself to composing in his free time. The oratorio Against the War , which he later rewrote according to the rules of twelve-tone technique , he had already started before his wartime. Further work was lost in the war events. It was then that he first became interested in Far Eastern poetry.

In 1917 the October Revolution took place in Russia. Eisler wrote that the soldiers received the news with enthusiasm, mainly because there was increasing expectation that the pressure of war would be reduced by the withdrawal of the Russians as opponents of the war. However, it was almost another year before Eisler could return home. The earliest surviving fragment of a work by him, Dull Drum and Intoxicated Gong, and from 1918 Die Mausefalle and Von der Poverty and Death from 1918 come from the year 1917 .

After the First World War (1918-1919)

The return to Vienna in December 1918 was very ambivalent for Eisler. His ties to his parents' home were broken. In Löwengasse, in his parents' apartment, he felt like a guest. Like thousands of others, he had to live in unheated barracks for the time being and had little money to buy civilian clothes. The Republic of Austria was proclaimed on November 12th, but the Russian October Revolution had a strong impact on Vienna. However, social democracy did not correspond to the idea of ​​long-term change for many returnees.

At the height of the November Revolution in Germany, shortly before the establishment of the Bavarian and Hungarian Soviet Republics , the first and oldest Communist Party in Western Europe, the KPÖ , was founded in Vienna on November 3, 1918 . Eisler's sister Elfriede was a member of the Red Guards there ; after occupying a newspaper editorial office, she had to go to prison for several weeks. Eisler's brother Gerhart also joined the Communist Party.

Elfriede had been married to the journalist Paul Friedländer since 1915 and had one child with him, Friedrich Gerhart. She saw no way of realizing her political idea of ​​radical upheaval in Vienna and went to Berlin. In Berlin she called herself Ruth Fischer and thus took her mother's maiden name. Gerhart Eisler followed her shortly afterwards.

Hanns Eisler moved with his girlfriend, the teacher Irma Friedmann, to the military barracks in Grinzing; there was, as it was once described, "half the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Hungary" . Eisler lived with the writer Béla Illés and the philosopher Georg Lukács .

Irma Friedmann rented a piano, Eisler performed songs and she accompanied him. At the beginning of 1919 Eisler, who was previously self-taught, enrolled at the New Vienna Conservatory to study composition. He also took piano lessons. His talent and knowledge of harmony were sufficient to be accepted into Professor Karl Weigl 's counterpoint class .

Apprenticeship with Arnold Schönberg (1919–1924)

Hanns Eisler heard a concert by Schönberg for the first time while on vacation at home. It was his 1st Chamber Symphony that Schönberg conducted himself. Eisler later wrote that this music made a great impression on him.

On the mediation of Joseph Trauneck Eisler had become a private student of Schönberg's, who recognized his talent and accepted him free of charge. Eisler took the Badner Bahn to Mödling twice a week . Often there was no electricity, so the students had to walk 15 kilometers back to Vienna along the tracks during the night. His classmates during this time were Max Deutsch , Joseph Trauneck, Karl Franz Rankl , Erwin Ratz and Jascha Horenstein .

The lessons at Schönberg were very strictly according to classical rules and according to the specifications of the works of Bach , Brahms and Beethoven . For Schönberg it was a matter of course that the students addressed him as Master. At that time, Schönberg was 45, Eisler 21 years old. After a short time Eisler became Schönberg's favorite student, Eisler reported that he even lived in Schönberg's house for some time. He gave Eisler a part-time position at the renowned music publisher Universal Edition , which was important for his advancement, as a score corrector.

Another important work of Eisler fell at this time, the direction of two Viennese workers' choirs. Schönberg himself had previously directed one. Eisler first took over a choir of the Vienna Siemens-Schuckert-Werke (Stahlklang) and after its dissolution the Karl Liebknecht Choir in Vienna-Floridsdorf. In this choir, revolutionary songs from the East were sung for the first time, such as the Red Guards March . At the same time he took over another choir of the Elektra workers' choir in the 20th district of Vienna.

In addition to all these activities and studies, Eisler met in the Café Museum, which still exists today, on Karlsplatz in Vienna in the so-called Schönbergkreis . It was there that Eisler met the singer and communist Charlotte Demant , who had studied singing and music theory with Anton Webern . They married on August 31, 1920. At the end of September of the same year, Schönberg took Eisler with him as an assistant to the Netherlands, where he had been invited (until March 1921) for composition courses and concerts in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw .

Eisler returned to Vienna via Berlin to meet his brother there. At an artist reception in the so-called Ukrainian Embassy, ​​he first met Bertolt Brecht, who sang the legend of the dead soldier and accompanied himself on the piano, beating it with his fists , as Eisler described. Gerhart Eisler introduced him as the poet from Munich .

In the autumn of 1921 Eisler began teaching in the Vienna Association for Folk Music Care , it was mainly basic musical lessons for workers. This time was very decisive for Eisler because - contrary to Schönberg's elitist claim - he asked himself who he was making music for. Eisler saw this as the beginning of his conflict with Schönberg. It wasn't a musical question, but an ideological one. The petty-bourgeois views of Schönberg, as Eisler believed, met the revolutionary views of Eisler, which were ridiculed by Schönberg.

Eisler saw a social function in music, while Schoenberg, in his opinion, took the position of L'art pour l'art .

In 1922 Schönberg began to work out his compositional method of dodecaphony, the twelve-tone technique . That took up a lot on him and therefore he referred some students, including Eisler, to Anton Webern for a few months . Eisler, however, immediately asked Schönberg in a letter to allow him to return. In a letter of recommendation dated April 6, 1923 to Emil Hertzka , the director of the Universal Edition, Schönberg described Eisler as a former student. This was preceded by the composition of a piano sonata that Eisler Schönberg performed in March 1923. Schönberg liked it so much that he put the sonata on the program of a concert in Prague on April 10th.

The international music and stage publisher for classical, romantic and contemporary music Universal Edition in Vienna had Schönberg under contract for ten years, as did Webern; Alban Berg only later. After the successful performance of his piano sonata in Prague, Eisler was also included in the publishing program, at the same time as Kurt Weill , whom he did not yet know personally at the time. In 1924 Eisler's first work was published in twelve-tone technique, Opus 5 Palmström .

On October 10, 1924, one of his works was performed for the first time in Vienna. In an article by Erwin Ratz , Eisler is referred to as the “third talent for composing from the Schönberg district, alongside Berg and Webern” .

Even so, Eisler was denied employment as a musician, composer or conductor in Vienna. So it was very difficult for him to make a living. He went to Berlin to perform his works, hoping to make contacts there. Eisler was only known to a very small group there, but the Berlin music critics received his performed sonata positively.

First years in Berlin (1925–1927)

While still in Vienna, Eisler wrote three male choirs based on the words of Heinrich Heine for the Wiener Arbeiter-Singverein, directed by Anton Webern. He devoted himself intensively to the male choir genre , especially the workers' male choir , as he believed that music should reach the masses and not just elite circles. During this time - rather unexpectedly - the awarding of the art prize of the municipality of Vienna took place on April 30, 1925. Nevertheless, the economic basis for Eisler in Vienna was still not given. In 1925 he took on a teaching position at the Klindworth-Scharwenka Conservatory and moved to Berlin alone in the winter of 1925, his wife stayed in Vienna. They kept the apartment in Vienna's 2nd district, and he commuted between Berlin and Vienna.

In a dispute with Schönberg about the concept of modern music , which dragged on very violently until 1926, when both lived in Berlin, the different views on the actual purpose of music came into play. Eisler criticized Schoenberg very strongly for his elitist attitude, Schoenberg in turn could not accept Eisler's position of turning away from the elitist role of New Music and thus not the political attitude of Eisler, which was socialist and assigned a function to music. This conflict dragged on for a very long time, as can be read in Schönberg's letters from 1928.

The so-called Roaring Twenties began in Berlin in 1925/1926 , in a city that was also the center of the German labor movement. Eisler's siblings were already influential KPD functionaries at that time. Ruth Fischer divorced Friedländer in 1921. Since 1924 she was a member of the Reichstag of the KPD , but in 1925 the party - by order of the Moscow party leadership - politically sidelined. She fell out with her brother Gerhart, who at the same time, although only briefly, held a higher position than herself in the KPD.

Hanns Eisler applied for membership in the KPD at the beginning of 1926, but did not receive it and, as he testified to the investigative committee for un-American activities, did not pursue this “matter” any further , which is why, in his understanding, he never became a member of the Communist Party.

In 1925 Eisler began seriously with the alternative to the traditional bourgeois concert business. In a cycle of ten songs, the newspaper cuttings op. 11 (1925-27), he worked with nursery rhymes, marriage announcements, the love song of a landowner , etc. Theodor Adorno judged in the music sheets of Anbruch : The songs are so extraordinary after question and answer, you Fury has such power, its stamping such sharpness, its tone such existent substance that it must be emphatically referred to. […] The central power of the songs is gathered in a will that breaks through art: to change the world. […] Eisler viewed these songs […] as a farewell to bourgeois concert poetry […] .

At the music festival in Baden-Baden in 1927, Eisler met Brecht for the second time, who premiered the rise and fall of the city of Mahagonny there . However, it would take another three years before we could work together.

Combat music - a new music (1928–1929)

During this time Eisler was not only concerned with compositions, an extremely extensive text work was also published. In 1927 the KPD central organ, Die Rote Fahne, published its first article on the centenary of Ludwig van Beethoven's death. More than 30 other texts followed by 1929. In these texts he attacks the narrow-mindedness of bourgeois art and describes the decomposition that has already begun.

Eisler was still celebrated as a representative of the Schönberg School. He himself was already looking for the new, lively culture in the agitprop movement , in the theater and in the singing movement. From November 1927 he worked with the agitprop group Das Rote Sprachrohr and was a music critic for the Rote Fahne , his first article appeared on March 22, 1927. He lectured at the Marxist Workers' School (MASCH) .

He was modeled on the traveling amateur drama and speaking choir groups, the Soviet agitkas . Eisler increasingly devoted himself to this task as a composer. Erwin Piscator invited him to write the incidental music for the opening production of the “studio” of his theater on Nollendorfplatz (Franz Jung, Heimweh , premiere on January 8, 1928, with the set by John Heartfield ). For the Feuchtwangerstück Calcutta, May 4th (premiere June 2nd, 1928) he was asked for the stage music. A poem by Brecht (1928) was set to music for the first time with the ballad from the soldier .

Working-class singing movement

In Germany

University of Music, Hardenbergstrasse

During this time there were more than 450,000 members in the German Workers' Association . Everywhere, in the city and in the country, there were choirs, some of which were of a very high standard. At the same time, there were very few political songs. The usual repertoire was not very different from that of the bourgeois choral societies .

Eisler's combat music period began with the Four Pieces for Mixed Choir, Op. 13 (1928). These pieces dealt parodistically with the themes of religion, nature and love and ended with a quote from the International . For the performance of his pieces, Eisler gives, just as Brecht usually did, precise specifications such as: B. in the four pieces for mixed choir Op. 14.2:

"This song is best sung like this: cigarette in the corner of your mouth, hands in your trouser pockets, screaming slightly so that it doesn't sound too nice and nobody is shaken."

- Hanns Eisler : Short inquiry (song of the unemployed)

For these reasons, many of them, especially Eisler's new works of this period, were no longer suitable for bourgeois concert claims. Later on, songs were created that were listed as singing in the streets . Nevertheless, these were premiered in 1929 in the concert hall of the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin.

Among other things, Eisler wrote a work based on the text of the legendary American protest singer Joe Hill , who was accused of murder and executed in 1915 after a dubious trial. The success was overwhelming. Although these were amateur choirs and Eisler's compositions for choir generally pose a great challenge, the songs were adopted by numerous workers' choirs.

Eisler's understanding of a choir master and the workers' choir

In 1933 Eisler described in a typescript his idea of ​​the relationship between the choir and its choirmaster. He described his experience with the previous choir movement, in which the choir master almost exclusively determined the direction and above all the repertoire:

“[…] 2. The choir master is not only an employee and artistic dictator in the workers' choral society, but also a functionary. It is the task of the choir to educate the choir master politically and to criticize the artistic intentions of the choir master based on the political tasks of the working class. We know what a tremendous, miserable influence a bourgeois choir master can have on working class singers.
3. A workers' choir should not adopt the attitude of a “collective carousel” in its concerts, who sings a beautiful little song to its friends and relatives in order to put them into sweet dreams. A workers' choir must give itself at least as much account of the responsibility it assumes in front of the proletarian audience with each of its events as a speaker in a political assembly [...] "

- Hanns Eisler : Music and Politics, Writings 1924–1948

Eisler and Karl Kraus

In addition to the proletarian battle songs, Eisler composed the incidental music for the epilogue to The Last Days of Mankind from Karl Kraus ' The Last Night . The first performance, the only performance of the play, took place on January 15, 1930 on the experimental stage of the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm and began at midnight. Heinrich Fischer was in charge and Leo Reuss directed . Performers included Paul Morgan and Theo Lingen . This was Eisler's only collaboration with Kraus.

Eisler and Ernst Busch

In 1929 he met Ernst Busch for the first time in the play Der Kaufmann von Berlin by Walter Mehring , staged by Erwin Piscator. Conflicts arose right away because Busch was never present when the rehearsals required it. Nevertheless, it was the beginning of a very long and fruitful collaboration, especially together with Brecht. This collaboration continued until the last theater role that Busch took on in December 1957, before he left the stage due to illness. Countless songs were composed especially for Busch by Eisler, as he approached Eisler with innumerable text suggestions. This cooperation further strengthened the effect of the battle songs.

During this time the first shellac records with Eisler music were made, sung by Ernst Busch. The song Roter Wedding in particular became popular far beyond the borders of Berlin. In 1931 this record became the subject of the so-called record trial, the charges being “incitement to class hatred” and “incitement to violence and contempt for the republican form of government”. In addition to the imposition of fines, the record itself was banned, remaining stocks had to be destroyed.

Eisler's most popular pieces for Busch were Comintern song , Roter Wedding , Stempellied (text by Robert Gilbert ), soap song and the solidarity song . The reasons for the high popularity of this form of music can be explained by the situation in 1929. The world economic crisis hit the workers and their families first of all. Hunger and homelessness increased at an alarming rate.

Eisler's claim to the battle songs was that they had to have a clear message and could be sung anytime and anywhere, in choir as well as unanimously.

Despite the successes, Eisler's financial situation remained tense. It only improved through the income from the film compositions and above all through the fact that the bourgeois record companies discovered worker music as an opportunity for sales. As a delegate of the communist interest group for working-class culture, Eisler traveled to Moscow for the first time in 1930.

Eisler and Brecht (1930–1932)

Eisler and Brecht met at the annual chamber music festival Neue Musik Berlin 1930 . They were of the same age, convinced of their abilities and both willing to implement their ideas of aesthetics and politics.

The measure

Main article: The measure (drama)

Origin and Distribution

The common didactic play The Measure , a reworking of the play Der Jasager , which Brecht wrote as a commissioned work for this festival, was rejected by the festival management due to political concerns. Weill thereupon withdrew his play Die Jasager as well out of solidarity . Eisler began composing in July 1930 with the aim of writing a piece “for those for whom it is intended and who have only one use for it: by workers' choirs, amateur playgroups, school choirs and school orchestras, that is, by those who are neither for Paying for art, still being paid for art, but wanting to make art. "

The measure was the first major work for the workers singer movement, so far there have only been individual songs. For the world premiere, three major Berlin choirs studied the work (mostly untrained voices and no knowledge of musical notation), plus the soloists Anton Maria Topitz , Ernst Busch, Helene Weigel and Alexander Granach . The choirs were kept busy until late at night, as the members had regular work during the day. The premiere took place in the old Berlin Philharmonic in Bernburger Strasse on December 13, 1930. The performance began - unusually - at 11:30 p.m. Hanns Eisler sang in the choir himself. The work was enthusiastically received by the workers, but by law criticized for incitement to class struggle of the Communist Party because of "his idealistic attitude." Attached to the program was a questionnaire that the audience was supposed to send in, which was widely used. A week later a discussion was held in a school. Based on this, there were changes to the text and a total of three other versions. Eisler also expanded and changed the score. There were several performances in Germany until 1932, in Leipzig there were 300 choir singers on stage.

The music criticism from both sides, the proletarian and the bourgeoisie, was consistently positive and sometimes euphoric. The drama The Measure is described in such detail here because it is one of Eisler's most important compositions - above all because very few people know it to this day, due to a performance ban by Bertolt Brecht after 1945 and later by the Brecht heirs is. Brecht rightly feared that this work would be misunderstood in the Cold War, which was just beginning, and used as evidence of the cruelty of the communist cause. Ruth Fischer had just denigrated Brecht as a minstrel of communism in her book Stalin and the German communism and at the same time settled accounts with her brothers Gerhart and Hanns - in a complete misunderstanding of the play. This book contributed significantly to the performance bans by Brecht and Eisler in the 1950s and 1960s.

The last performance in Germany was on January 23, 1932 in the Reichshallen Theater in Erfurt. In the play itself, a Chinese workers' leader gives the order to storm the factory. The police present took this as an opportunity to interrupt the performance for "inciting against the state". When the room was forcibly evacuated, there were tumults and some arrests. This ended the performance history of the measure in Germany.

The first re-performance was in 1987 in London, the first German re-performance in 1997 in the Berliner Ensemble . At the beginning of 2002 there were two performances in the Art Nouveau Theater am Steinhof in Vienna , which, despite a good performance and successful staging, largely went unnoticed due to the fact that the work is not known today. There are no recordings, the text itself was published by Suhrkamp in 1955. The performance ban mainly affected Eisler's music, as the text itself was always available in the Brecht editions.

Characteristics of sacred music

The text and music of the measure show characteristics of sacred music . The use of opening choruses, arias, recitatives, canonical and homophonic choral movements as well as church-style phrases are unique in comparison to the other didactic pieces by Brecht. Several clear citations to important works of sacred music make the parallels clear: While the Brechtian introductory text is based on Johann Sebastian Bach's St. John Passion , Eisler copies that of the St. Matthew Passion in his opening music . The choir: Change the world, it needs it refers to the final chorus of the first part of George Frideric Handel's Israel in Egypt .

Political and artistic everyday life

During these years the Brecht circle was very active. Eisler met Hedi Gutmann , a committed young communist , in 1929 . Eisler: "There was no pub too small where Ernst Busch, Helene Weigel, Brecht and I did not appear, and there was no hall too large and no theater too elegant where we did not also appear." There was always, like Brecht it meant doing something quickly. Among other things, the Rote Revue: We are so happy ... the young Volksbühne, as a joint effort by Brecht, Ernst Ottwalt , Erich Weinert , Eisler and Friedrich Hollaender . From this revue came the banking song , Das Lied vom SA-Mann , Die Ballade zu § 218 and Das Lied des SA-Proleten .

In 1931 Eisler got his first two orders for sound film music ( Das Lied vom Leben und Niemandsland ). In the second half of 1931 Eisler began work on two other projects with Brecht, the stage play The Mother and the film Kuhle Wampe or: Who Owns the World? .

With the dramatization of The Mother (Gorky) , Maxim Gorki's novel about the pre-revolutionary May demonstration in Nizhny Novgorod in 1902, Brecht and Eisler aimed directly at the situation of the workers' movement in Germany. Eisler wrote nine musical numbers for it. The best known of these, Praise of the Third Cause , describes communism as a way out of the existing political stagnation and that of the two strong forces, the bourgeois camp and the reform-oriented social democracy , insoluble economic drama, hunger, unemployment and the strengthening of a fourth force, des National Socialism .

The premiere took place on January 17, 1932 in Berlin in the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm with Helene Weigel , Ernst Busch and Theo Lingen as police superintendent. The evening of the premiere was followed by 30 more sold out performances, making the mother, along with Die Mausefalle by Gustav von Wangenheim, the most successful piece in proletarian theater before 1933. The last performance was with constant interruptions by the police, but the ensemble around Helene Weigel and Ernst Busch played it Piece through to the end without props and costumes.

The central theme of the film Kuhle Wampe or: Who Owns the World? is solidarity. The best known of Eisler's battle songs, the solidarity song, is heard in the third part of the film. Brecht wrote the text: Forward, and don't forget… . The main actor in this film was Ernst Busch. The film became a mass success in German cinemas. The cinema release itself was hindered by German censorship, so the premiere took place in Moscow.

Years of Exile in Europe (1933–1937)

Eisler in Moscow

Eisler stayed in Moscow in 1932 to negotiate with the Moscow State Music Publishing House about the reproduction of his songs. Requests for changes were reported, which Eisler strictly rejected and with which he asserted himself when the print appeared in 1934. Eisler was commissioned to write the music for Pesn o gerojach (hero song) . Obviously at this point he was no longer a stranger to the Soviet Union . The book for this film was by Sergei Tretyakov , whom Stalin executed in 1939. Eisler's friend, Hedi Gutmann, got a job on the radio in Moscow. She was sentenced to 18 years in a prison camp in the course of the Stalinist purges in 1938 and did not return to Berlin until 1957.

At the end of 1932 Eisler was back in Berlin and, together with Brecht and Helene Weigel, created the four lullabies for working-class mothers . The impressive song: O Fallada, since you are hanging (a horse accuses) denounces the social and emotional crippling of people as a result of the ever worsening economic hardship.

Only weeks before Hitler came to power , the song The March into the Third Reich was composed with the lines "... It's a long way to the Third Reich, you shouldn't believe how long it takes" . The text dramatically shows the misjudgment of the actual circumstances.

Changing stays

The essentials of the following years of exile can best be described with the lines from the poem by Brecht An die Nachgeborben II :

“We went more often than the shoes,
changing countries.
Through the class wars, desperate
when there was only injustice
and no outrage "

- Bertolt Brecht : To those born later

The battle songs became Nazi songs and vice versa

In the meantime the Nazis had recognized the great agitational power of the fighting songs of the left, the "music Bolsheviks", as they were called by the clean workers' choir groups. Most of the workers gave up choral singing. Workers' song was taken over. Alfred Roth has identified dozens of these adaptations in the songs of the NSDAP , SA, SS and HJ . Mostly there was a new adaptation, the music was not interfered with. These songs were so well-known that in many cases they did not need to be printed on the sheet music; the new text simply indicated the corresponding melody.

The International became the Hitler National , the melody of brothers, the sun, the text became brothers for freedom , the columns were sung, the song, dedicated to Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg , became up, up to the fight . We swore it to Adolf Hitler . From Red Wedding was HJ marched in the Hitler Youth -Liederbuch Our flag flutters us forward.

Eisler himself commented on this from Paris in 1935 , the ban and confiscation of Eisler notes and records were the next step. Eisler was also presented at the Degenerate Music exhibition in Düsseldorf in 1937, with an imprint of the solidarity song denounced as a chilling example .

Brecht emigrated a day after the Reichstag fire , Kurt Weill a month later, and Ernst Busch went to Holland on March 9th .

The calf march from 1942 shows the actual position of the soldiers in World War II who voluntarily went into battle. This political song, part of Schweyk in the Second World War from 1943, was Brecht's bitter parody of the Horst Wessel song , which at the time had the status of a second national anthem and whose melody Eisler used in the chorus for this adaptation.


In mid-January 1933 Eisler went to Vienna, which - after the news of Hitler's assumption of power had reached him - became the first stop in his exile. In February he drove back to Berlin again, obviously in order to liquidate his apartment and to transfer the material there to Vienna.

His marriage to Charlotte had a son in 1928, the artist Georg Eisler . Since Eisler had drifted apart with his wife due to the long separation and his relationship with Hedi Gutmann, he looked for his own accommodation and two years later the marriage was divorced.

On March 19, 1933, Anton Webern conducted a workers' symphony concert in the Wiener Konzerthaus, during which Das Lied vom Kampf , a song, choir and spoken assembly of pieces from The Mother and The Measure , was performed. The concert took place at a time of extreme political tension. The Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss was just preparing the elimination of parliament, six months later all political parties were banned ( Austrofascism ). After the concert, at which Brecht and Helene Weigel were present, there was a spontaneous demonstration in which battle songs were sung. The clash with the police that followed was inevitable.

Immediately afterwards Eisler traveled to Czechoslovakia , where a new film assignment was waiting for him. It was a film about life in Carpathian Ukraine . During a visit to the High Tatras , Eisler met a young woman: Louise (Lou) Jolesch geb. Gosztony, the wife of an industrialist from Jihlava . She was probably the only communist in the area where she lived, as there was only one vote for the communists there. At the end of 1933 she visited Hanns Eisler in Paris. From 1934 she accompanied Eisler constantly, and on December 7, 1937 they married in Prague.

Changing the countries

Eisler reached Paris at the end of March 1933. He had a lot to do (film music, invitation to Antwerp by Ernst Busch). During this time Eisler repeatedly used his own music from earlier times in various projects, for example in the Dutch film Nieuwe Gronden , which described the history of the dyke construction in the Zuiderzee . Like many others, Eisler was forced to compose music for projects that did not really satisfy him, if only for the sake of earning a living. In April 1934 he wrote to Brecht about his work on the film Le grand jeu : It has become a huge success, although it is a shit, and even I finally have a brilliant press here too.

Brecht was living in Denmark at the time and kept sending Eisler texts to edit. It was the Svendborg poems . In mid-January 1934 Eisler traveled with Lou for the first time from Paris to Skovsbostrand zu Brecht. They arrived there on February 12th. The mood was depressed, the radio was just reporting on the flare-up of the February fighting in Austria. This meant that it was no longer possible for Brecht and Eisler to perform in Austria. On February 11, one day before the fighting broke out, the last Workers' Symphony concert in 29 years took place in Vienna, and it ended with Eisler's orchestral suite No. 3 , Kuhle Wampe .

In the following two months, before Eisler had to return to Paris for three months, Brecht and Eisler worked intensively on the reworking of the piece: The pointed heads and the round heads or Reich and Reich like to join forces .

Eisler arrived back in Denmark in July and they continued to work together. The result was the ballad of the water wheel , the song of the invigorating effect of money and the song of whitewash. The first two in particular were definitely the best work together. The performance of the work turned out to be very difficult, the premiere took place in Denmark in 1936 in Danish. It was not until the 1960s that these works were performed for the first time in West Germany. The songs and ballads were already part of the repertoire of most of the Brecht interpreters.

From the end of August Eisler lived with Lou in London , where he recorded the Californian ballad with Ernst Busch ; In January 1935 they went to Holland for production . The reason for this stay was the commission for the historical film Abdul the Damned with Fritz Kortner in the leading role.

Looking back on the mistakes before 1933, the KPD and the Comintern worked increasingly towards an anti-fascist united front of communists and social democrats and asked Brecht for a song text and Eisler for the music. At the end of 1934, Brecht and Eisler wrote the united front song in just a few days, it quickly became popular and is still today.

From February to May 1935 Eisler went on a concert and lecture tour through the USA for the benefit of the needy children of the Saar refugees. Many communists and social democrats had to leave the country after the vote in Saarland in 1935 . In the course of these events, some aid committees were founded in the USA. These included various intellectuals and artists such as Hemingway , Chaplin , Aaron Copland , Charles Seeger and others.

The opening concert in New York with a choir of 1000 singers had to be repeated ten days later due to the great demand. Eisler conducted a total of over 30 concerts with different singers in the USA. At these concerts Eisler lectured on German fascism, the crisis in modern bourgeois music and the new tasks of the workers' music movement. This was always followed by the musical part. The texts have been translated into English. There were around 60,000 listeners on this tour, plus around 8,000 singers. During this trip Eisler met the director of the New York New School for Social Research ; he invited him as a visiting professor for music for composition and for a series of lectures on the subject of the crisis in modern music in the winter semester of 1935/36. He also partially implemented this invitation. He spoke to Lee Strasberg of the Group Theater about the performance of The Mother and The Measure . During this time he forged a plan for an extensive concentration camp symphony , which was later realized as the German Symphony . Eisler and Lou drove back to Paris in May 1935.

“I have a very interesting composition plan [,] and I want to write a large symphony that will have the subtitle 'Concentration Camp Symphony'. Choir is also used in some passages, although it is definitely an orchestral work. "

- Hanns Eisler (in July 1935 in a letter from Moscow to Bertolt Brecht

Lion Feuchtwanger exile

Lion Feuchtwanger started his novel Exil in France , in which the composer Sepp Trautmann, who emigrated to Paris, is the central figure. He had given up his compositional work for some time and had been active in the anti-fascist struggle with political and journalistic work. It can be assumed that Feuchtwanger took Eisler as a model for this character, so Trautmann's son was given the first name Hanns in the novel .

Eisler himself did not last long in Paris, he traveled briefly to London and in June 1935 to Strasbourg for the 1st Workers' and Singing Olympiad , in which 70 choirs and over 3,000 people took part . At the opening, the song of the united front , performed by Ernst Busch , was heard for the first time in Europe . As is so often the case, this event ended with a parade and a scuffle with the police, and Eisler was briefly imprisoned. A week later the North Bohemian Workers Music Festival took place in Liberec (Reichenberg) with 15,000 participants, in which Eisler also took part.

It should not be left unmentioned that these workers 'music festivals were largely not characterized by workers' songs and combat music. Eisler later expressed great concern to Brecht about this. From Reichenberg Eisler traveled to Moscow for the VII World Congress of the Comintern .

Eisler with the interbrigades

After a few lectures and radio appearances in Belgium, France and the Netherlands at the end of 1937, Eisler arrived in besieged Madrid on January 10, 1938 . Internationally known, he was warmly welcomed there, and the brigade leadership expected him and Ernst Busch, who was present at the same time, to provide great support for the beleaguered republican troops and the interbrigades . After a few days Eisler drove to Murcia to attend the XI. Brigade. The Thälmann battalion was part of this brigade.

The brigadists' musicality and singing skills were so great that Eisler was able to compose some new songs in a very short time and perform them in rented halls. Some of the singers were wounded and stood or sat on stage with their bandages. “[…] There was no nice singing, the voices were hoarse from the great coldness in the positions. It was sung with great enthusiasm. This is how the peasants in the Peasant Wars must have sung their Bundschuhieder, so the Taborites, this is how the Marseillaise must have sounded the first time ” .

Two weeks later, Eisler left Spain without meeting Ernst Busch, who was also there, in order to continue devoting himself to the German Symphony that had already begun with Brecht in Svendborg , Denmark, for a total of eight months, a long time in one place on Eisler's other travel expenses.

Eisler in the USA (1938–1948)

Teething problems

Eisler and his wife Lou set foot on American soil for the third time on January 20, 1938. They only had a six-month non-renewable visitor visa issued by the American embassy in Prague. The Eislers could have claimed a non-quota visa due to the invitation as visiting professor . This would have saved them many of the bureaucratic hurdles they faced in the years that followed.

Years of apprenticeship as an immigrant

Although Eisler was able to start teaching at the New School for Social Research days after his arrival , he was dependent on help from friends and aid organizations due to the low salary and the fact that he could not bring any major funds with him from Europe. He shared this fate with many emigrants, many of whom committed suicide while immigrating , like Ernst Toller in 1939 . This provided Eisler with a work grant from the American Guild for German Cultural Freedom , which was able to cover his most urgent expenses, such as renting a small apartment at 57 West 11 Street in Greenwich Village , which they lived in until 1939. During this time Eisler took every opportunity to learn English. However, he succeeded only inadequately. You yourself were very hospitable and often invited friends. Again and again Eisler sat down at the piano and played.

At the end of February 1938, friends from the American Music League organized a “Welcome Concert for Hanns Eisler” at the New School for Social Research. There were also various concerts over the next few months, which the New York Times noted several times . Eisler continued his contacts with the American workers' music movement from 1935. However, Eisler had to be very careful as any contact by immigrants with the American Communist Party was strictly prohibited and threatened with deportation.

For this reason Eisler took on the pseudonym John Garden when he was invited in autumn 1938 to work on an artistic program for a planned Lenin memorial service for the 20th anniversary of the October Revolution . With Hoffmann R. Hays , the piece A Song about America was created , which had its acclaimed premiere in November 1938 in Madison Square Garden . With his song Sweet Liberty Land Eisler achieved the counterpart to the united front song , it became the national anthem of the Communist Party of America (H. R. Hays). This euphoria of the American labor movement suffered a major setback in 1939.

At the end of 1938 Eisler wrote the twelve-tone film music for Joris Ivens and Joseph Losey's film The 400 Million , which was about the Sino-Japanese War of 1937. It was the first time that Eisler used this technique for a film. The premiere was in New York in March 1939. As is often the case later, Eisler used parts of the film music to develop them into chamber music pieces that could be generally performed. This resulted in the frequently performed Five Orchestral Pieces .

In the summer, the Eislers spent some time on the estate of the art and music historian Joachim Schumacher in Valley Cottage, not far from New York City. There Eisler met Ernst Bloch again , his wife Karola and their one-year-old son. This meeting inspired Eisler to write his cantata for Mr. Meyer's first birthday .

Eisler's participation in a political cabaret on the Theater Arts Committee has been reported, but nothing is known of his compositions. On the occasion of the upcoming New York World's Fair in 1939, Joseph Losey was commissioned by the American oil industry to create a puppet cartoon. The name was Pete Roleum and his cousins . Eisler made the music for it, so successfully that his reputation was consolidated and he became even more well known. At the same time Kurt Weill wrote the music for an attraction of the American railroad companies at this world exhibition, Weill referred to this music as circus opera .

Neither musician would have dreamed of working on behalf of American big business or monopoly, but the circumstances of the exile forced them to do so, and the fees were lavish for the time. Eisler was unable to attend the premiere because he was already in Mexico City . When the visitor visa expired, he tried to get a non-quota visa through a lawyer at the US Embassy in Havana , but processing was blocked. Eisler was already marked as a communist, he was dependent on the help and intercession of influential friends. In addition, his visitor visa had already been extended once in June 1938. The back and forth about the immigrant visa went so far that the then first lady Eleanor Roosevelt intervened with the Foreign Minister (Memorandum for Hon. Sumner Welles: "Dear Sumner - This Eisler case seems a hard nut to crack. What do you suggest? Sincerely ER ”). The situation for the Eislers was precarious, Havana did not answer and delayed processing, and the visitor visa finally expired on January 21, 1939. They were officially expelled from the United States on March 2nd. Mexico, which at that time was ruled by the progressive President Lázaro Cardenas and pursued an openly anti-fascist foreign policy, offered Eisler temporary asylum and a temporary Mexican residence permit, but only after direct intervention by Eisler's friends with the president himself.

Eisler arrived in Mexico City on April 12, 1939 and gave a concert in May 1939 at the Palacio de Bellas Artes theater . He lived in the recently vacated house of the Turkish embassy. There he wrote some pieces of chamber music and began to set some of Brecht's poems to music, including the elegy and the saying . From June to September he held a teaching position on the subjects of Introduction to Modern Harmony and Modern Instrumentation at the city's conservatory.

News of the Hitler-Stalin Pact reached Eisler in August, and Germany's invasion of Poland began in early September. The issuance of an immigrant visa for the USA was still delayed. On September 11, 1939, Eisler returned to New York with his wife on a visitor visa that was limited to two months. Despite the temporary residence permit, Eisler stayed longer in the USA. On July 17, 1940, the American immigration authorities officially issued an arrest warrant for Eisler, who was then in Hollywood for a film project. He escaped by immediately driving back to Mexico with his Mexican residence permit. In Mexicali in Baja California on the border with California Eisler was his request before a permanent residence the local US consul Willis Meyer. Meyer, apparently unaware of the situation, issued Eisler a non-quota visa after three days, for which he was insulted years later by the Committee for Un-American Activities as a “sleeping consular officer”. Nevertheless, the return to the USA turned out to be difficult, as the Eislers were not allowed to enter the country despite the valid non-quota visa. Only after a complaint to the Appeals Committee of the Supreme Immigration Office on October 22, 1940 and after another month of involuntary stay in the border town were Lou and Hanns Eisler finally allowed to enter and returned to New York immediately.

A new beginning

Although Eisler was well known as a composer of unusual film scores, it was very difficult for him to earn enough money. His teaching at the New School covered at most the rent for his apartment, a few opportunities to write stage music alleviated the misery somewhat ( Night Music by Clifford Odets and Medicine Show by Hoffmann Hays, both premiered in New York in 1940). Back then, Eisler had the idea of ​​publishing the subject of film music as a book. The Rockefeller Foundation was used to finance this project, which was set up as part of a scientific work , and actually gave the New School of Social Research this mandate under the direction of (Dr.) Hanns Eisler. This scholarship for “experimental demonstrations of music in film production” (according to the official letter of the Rockefeller Foundation) was endowed with 20,160 dollars for a period of two years and included the establishment of a sound film archive. Eisler himself found a good livelihood with 3,000 dollars a year and was initially rid of his financial problems. During the scholarship period, adaptations of various films were made, including the adaptation of American nursery rhymes for a film by Joseph Losey about kindergartens and sequences for John Ford's Grapes of Wrath . For a nature film White Flood Eisler composed the twelve-tone, five-movement chamber symphony and described it as: "the most advanced musical material (strict twelve-tone technique), applied to the great musical form" [...]. Eisler dedicated this work to Theodor W. Adorno .

The dedication showed that Eisler was already in contact with Adorno at the beginning of the project, and not just when they were working on the joint book about this project, as was reported several times. In fact, Eisler and Adorno had known each other since 1925.

This work was interrupted when Eisler was called to a film project in Mexico by the director Herbert Kline . The documentary The Forgotten Village, based on a story by John Steinbeck, described the terrible conditions in an Indian mountain village in Mexico. Eisler took over the film composition under very difficult conditions, since the Mexican composer intended for it had died. For this he saw it necessary to deal with the local culture and music and all of their influences. He completed the composition in New York, using parts of it for his Nonet No. 2 , but the original material is considered to be unrecoverable and has been lost. The Eislers spent the summer of 1941 in Woodbury , Connecticut, guest of Joachim Schumacher ; Eisler regarded the work that was written there, known as the Woodbury Song Booklet, as thanks for the hospitality, not without fear, because Hitler had attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941.

Back in New York, Eisler continued his work on the film music project. The 1929 documentary Rain by Joris Ivens, a cinematic study of the different effects that rain can produce, led to Eisler's most important work, written strictly in twelve-tone technique, in this musical genre, Fourteen Ways to Describe Rain . Eisler later explained that it can also mean fourteen ways to be sad . Eisler saw this work as a homage to his teacher Arnold Schönberg, who had been teaching in California since 1934 and to whom he assigned it in 1944 on his 70th birthday.

With this work, the practical part of the project was completed in early 1942. In order to complete the theoretical part, the book, Eisler asked for an extension of the scholarship that the Rockefeller Foundation granted him for a further nine months.


From 1942

The working conditions in New York were sometimes very difficult for Eisler, studios had to be rented by the hour for the musical experiments, the end of the scholarship was approaching, and his financial livelihood was again unclear in the foreseeable future. The opportunity to take on a higher- paying teaching position at the University of California and find better working conditions was in the room.

The decisive factor was the arrival of Bert Brecht in Los Angeles , whom Eisler had not seen for four years and with whom he had been in constant correspondence. Eisler himself procured Brecht the non-quota visa for the USA on the basis of an invitation as a lecturer at the New School of Research . After the German Wehrmacht marched into Denmark, Brecht fled to Sweden and then to Finland and continued via Moscow on the Trans-Siberian Railway to Vladivostok . Then he went by ship via Manila to Los Angeles, where he arrived on July 21, 1941 and moved into a small house in Santa Monica .

Eisler and Lou arrived in Los Angeles on April 20, 1942. They moved into a simple hotel room and immediately visited the friends who were already living there. Theodor Adorno, Fritz Kortner , Brecht and Schönberg. As a document of the exile situation in 1942/43, he and Brecht, from whom Eisler lived only a few minutes by car, created his most important works during the exile, which also belong to the enduring compositions of the 20th century: the German Symphony and the Hollywooder songbook . The most essential part of Eisler and Brecht's work after the USA entered the war was the consideration of the function of their music in a post-Hitler Europe.

Film music in Hollywood

Between 1942 and 1945 more than 300 films were made in Hollywood, which can be assigned to the anti-Nazi film genre in very different ways and in different quality . It was part of an effort to mobilize the population for war. The assassination attempt on Reinhard Heydrich on May 27, 1942 inspired Brecht to write a screenplay for a film. Fritz Lang , who had worked very successfully as a director in Hollywood since 1936, was enthusiastic, and both of them produced the film within just ten months: Hangmen Also Die! finished. This film, shot in a forensic form due to a lack of precise information about what actually happened, was Brecht's only work for the Hollywood film studios. Eisler used the Comintern song, otherwise known as No surrender, as closing music. The not very extensive film music was enthusiastically received and the score was nominated for an Oscar in the category Best Film Music of 1943 .

The proceeds from the film allowed the Eislers to rent a house near Arnold Schönberg in Brentwood . There Eisler completed the final report of the film project and sent it to the Rockefeller Foundation . It said that the performance of the works in the Hollywood Academy of Motion Pictures was planned for January 1943. This shows that Eisler's position in Hollywood was consolidated. In March 1943 they bought their own house in Pacific Palisades , in the immediate vicinity of Thomas Mann , Theodor W. Adorno and Vicky Baum . Here Eisler continued his work on the Hollywooder songbook, the fourth song complex, which is based on the humanistic German traditions of Hölderlin, Goethe, Schubert, Mörike, Eichendorff and Schumann. Particularly noteworthy is the setting of the Hölderlin poem: Gesang des Deutschen , which was combined with other texts to form the Hölderlin fragments .

On December 28, 1943 Eisler completed work on the Hollywooder songbook with the Rimbaud poem . Despite its musical importance, the Hollywooder songbook as a whole was only performed on a larger scale in the 1980s, for the first time by Roswitha Trexler in Leipzig in 1982 and by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in 1988.

Main article: Hollywooder songbook

Current events in Europe continued to be reflected in Eisler's compositions, such as the songs Deutsches Miserere and In Sturmesnacht based on texts by Brecht after the Battle of Stalingrad in early 1943 .

In addition to the experimental work on the film-music project, Eisler wrote the music for two documentaries, one short film and nine feature films.

The ease of Hollywood

For the Eislers, the time in Pacific Palisades was a good opportunity to present themselves as a hospitable artist couple. Her house on Amalfi Drive, not far from Thomas Mann's house , became a popular meeting place for the emigrant colony. In addition to Theodor Adorno, her friends included the actors Fritz Kortner, Peter Lorre, Oskar Homolka as well as Brecht, Helene Weigel , Lion Feuchtwanger and above all Charlie Chaplin , with whom Eisler - according to their similar expressive nature - had an intense friendship. Eisler brought Chaplin together with Mann and in 1946 had a share in the film music of Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux , which turned out to be very difficult: Eisler, who does not like moving into the production facilities, received Chaplin's own composition through the Viennese cabaret artist Georg Kreisler and orchestrated it Grades; Eisler saw this as a service of friendship. The film music for the post-production of Chaplin's silent film from 1928 The Circus had already been contractually agreed, but Eisler's participation did not come about due to the summons to the Unamerican Committee . In 1947, Eisler processed the sketches for this film music to make Septet No. 2 .

From 1943 onwards, Eisler and the rest of the rest of the county were monitored almost completely by the FBI , as the more than 600 page long report shows. Telephones were monitored, the post office opened, people were shadowed and break-ins committed.

In contrast to many other emigrants, Eisler's work situation was entirely satisfactory. He was responsible for various film scores and was again nominated for an Oscar in 1944 for best score in the film None But the Lonely Heart with the also nominated Cary Grant in the male lead. Directed by Clifford Odets . Ethel Barrymore won the Oscar for the female lead. Again it remained with the nomination for Eisler, instead Max Steiner received the award for the music for Since You Went Away .

With the support of Arnold Schönberg, Eisler received a visiting professorship at the University of California (UCLA) in 1944 , and Schönberg had been teaching there since 1936. The lectures were a great success, and Bertolt Brecht was often present. Especially Eisler's way of dealing with the shortcomings of his diction was much noticed: he simply used words that he did not know in English as a German word, imitating the American pronunciation. Eisler presented the completed film music project from the New York era in front of 1,500 viewers.

During this time he and Adorno wrote the book Composition for the Film , which went to press in 1947. The subject of this book was the dramaturgical function and the use of various new musical materials in the film, which arose from both criticisms of the “stale rules of experience” in existing productions.

Paul Dessau in Hollywood

In October 1943 Paul Dessau arrived in Hollywood, who had already been a “competitor” for Eisler in earlier successful work with Brecht. Brecht found Dessau's handling of his texts very pleasant, because, unlike Eisler, he never interfered in the text and did the settings directly. Dessau's main work over several years was the completion of the German Miserere .

Unloved breadwork

Eisler and Brecht worked intensively on The Face of Simone Machard , which they wanted to expand as an opera, but they never succeeded. The piece itself was not completed by Brecht until 1955. To the initiated American lifestyle to maintain, Eisler had to, in the words of Brecht once sewer issue. For financial reasons Eisler accepted the commission for three films, which he described to his son Georg, who lived in England and with whom he was in regular correspondence: “Now I've just finished an idiotic ham, it's called Spanish Main . This is pure nonsense, nonsense, etc. I had to do it for the money. "

It was precisely at this time that Nazi Germany surrendered, which left Eisler in great euphoria. Since Brecht couldn't find any performance possibilities for his plays in Hollywood, he and Eisler flew to New York to prepare the play Fear and Misery of the Third Reich there , directed by Erwin Piscator, in a small theater off-Broadway. Even the preliminary work turned out to be problematic, Piscator got into a dispute with Brecht, Berthold Viertel continued the directorial work, but the timing for a play about the Third Reich was badly chosen, and so the play fell, at the premiere of which Eisler could no longer be present , with audience and criticism.

In October 1945 the Eislers moved to a smaller, much more modest house right on Malibu Beach . A few months later, in February 1946, Eisler received a full professorship at the University of Southern California (USC) in counterpoint and composition . Shortly before that, Eisler started a long-term serious film project, Deadline at Dawn (decision at dawn). Directed by Harold Clurman from the New York Group Theater , whom Eisler knew from working on the measure in 1936. He also took on the project of a film about the Resistance with Jean Renoir . At the same time, Eisler was still busy completing the German Symphony, which was finally completed in February 1947.

Campaign against the "communist danger"

October 13, 1946 was the turning point in American domestic policy, which was primarily a campaign against communism. On that day, Louis Budenz , a former editor of the Daily Worker who left the American Communist Party in 1943 and converted to Catholicism, announced in a radio address that the “main spy of Moscow in the USA, agent of the Comintern (which was dissolved in 1943), Gerhart Eisler , and under the code name Hans Berger instigated a conspiracy against the American government ”. In the course of President Harry Truman's sharp anti-communist campaign , a scapegoat was needed and it was believed to have been found in Gerhart Eisler. The beginning of the Cold War, which marked the beginning of the Cold War by the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at his famous “ Iron Curtain ” speech held in Fulton, Missouri , on March 5, 1946, favored this shift to the right in American foreign policy.

The convened already in 1938 Investigative Committee of the House of Representatives House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was re-activated at the end of 1946, and one day after the Budenz- "revelation" demanded the former FBI boss John Edgar Hoover a corresponding reaction . Ruth Fischer, the sister of Hanns and Gerhart Eisler, played a key role in this affair. It has published a news bulletin since 1944, The Network Information Bulletin about Stalinist Organizations and Organizational Forms . In the course of her journalistic activities, she placed full-page newspaper advertisements all over the country in which she insulted her brother Gerhart as a terrorist and described him as responsible for the execution of Bukharin and a nuclear spy, among other things . The background of their untenable accusations was the still active struggle between Stalin and the supporters of Trotsky († 1940). Corresponding documents show that Ruth Fischer in general - and especially in her relationship to Hanns - can be assumed to be of pathological paranoia to a high degree . This is illustrated by a letter from Ruth Fischer's estate, which is partly translated in Eisler's HUAC interrogation protocol. Her relationship with Gerhart had been very tense since 1926 from her time in Berlin, she had a good relationship with Hanns, he had supported her financially over the years, and she was several times a guest of the Eislers in California.

As absurd as the accusations that followed were, the circumstances and events that ultimately led to the forced departure of both brothers were drastic.

At the end of October 1946 the Hollywood Reporter published the first defamatory article against Eisler, which opened the press campaign against Hanns Eisler. It was superficially complained that Eisler, in contrast to other, above all American musicians, had enough work and that this was withheld from American composers. A composer not mentioned in the article had his say: “We talked to a composer about Eisler yesterday and the answer was: He doesn't have much of a composer, just because of his views he seems to get jobs, while others of us have greater abilities own, cannot find employment ”.

Arguments against immigrants, which were often uttered by a growing envy cooperative in Hollywood, did not take into account the work that immigrants did in the artistic field for the American cultural development of this time. Seen in this way, the arguments differed little from those to which the same people had been exposed ten to fifteen years earlier in Germany or Austria. More or less open anti-Semitic resentment could be heard again and again during this time in America. After Wilhelm Reich's conviction, all of his available works were burned and had to be banned from all libraries by court ruling.

Interrogate the HUAC committee

From April 1947, the HUAC began preparing for the interrogation of Hanns Eisler after Gerhart Eisler had already been arrested and interrogated in February. Since he was not allowed to read a statement of his own, Gerhart Eisler refused to cooperate and was sentenced to a year in prison, which he did not have to serve because a newspaper and a civil rights organization, the Civil Rights Congress , held bail for him applied.

Hanns Eisler's first private preliminary interrogation took place on May 11, 1947 at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles . The most important committee members, chaired by John Parnell Thomas, were present, including the later US President Richard Nixon . He wrote in the preparations that the "Eisler case might be the most important case that has ever come before the committee".

In an interview for the Daily Worker , New York on May 19, 1947 Eisler said: "I think the campaign against Gerhart and me is the beginning of a campaign against all liberal and progressive forces in this country".

In the summer of 1947 the second trial against Gerhart took place in Washington , Ruth Fischer witnessed the prosecution and Hanns witnessed the defense. Gerhart Eisler was sentenced to three years in prison for a passport offense because he did not declare his KPD membership when entering the United States. Charles Chaplin wrote that this family was like the royal dramas of Shakespeare.

During this time the Eisler's life became more and more unpleasant, the press and radio journalists constantly reported on the case in the form of untenable lies and denunciations, as Lou Eisler once wrote in a letter to Alan Bush in London. Eisler himself never tired of defending his brother, so he flew to New York to speak in a meeting and then to appear in Washington as a witness for the defense.

Nevertheless, the artistic work continued. Brecht had previously, in long collaboration with Charles Laughton, translated the play Galileo's life and, under the influence of the atomic bombs in Japan, almost completely rewritten it. The premiere of the play Galileo with Laughton in the leading role, directed by Joseph Losey and with the music by Hanns Eisler, took place on July 30, 1947 at the Coronet Theater in Hollywood. In the two years Eisler worked on the music that became one of his best works, he rented an apartment outside of Malibu so he could work in peace, as he was constantly shadowed by the FBI. The premiere was described as the event of the season by James K. Lyon, and the subsequent 17 sold-out performances were a huge hit. Igor Stravinsky was present at the premiere and congratulated Eisler on his excellent music. Joseph Losey wanted to film the play afterwards, but couldn't find a producer in Hollywood for it. Years later, in 1974, it was filmed in England with Chaim Topol in the lead role, but it was not distributed in Germany or Austria and therefore remained almost completely unknown there.

Eisler's last feature film music also comes from this time. She accompanied the film So Well Remembered , a socially critical work directed by Edward Dmytryk , most of which was shot in England. The premiere was on October 27th in New York. Dmytryk was one of the so-called "Hollywood Ten" indicted in 1950.

A month earlier, from September 24 to 26, 1947, Eisler was interrogated for three days in Washington under the chairmanship of Thomas (who himself was sentenced to imprisonment for embezzlement a year later). The aim was to prove to him, like Gerhart, that he had been a member of the communist party and thus violated the entry regulations. It was about the often published, famous question: "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party". Since this could not be proven to Eisler - as already mentioned, his former application for membership did not lead to membership, the investigators turned to his former relations with the Soviet Union in order to use his battle songs as reasons and evidence - based on an extensive FBI dossier to be able to lead. Stripling, who mainly asked the questions, once responded to the chairman's question as to why he was reading all these press articles that "Eisler was the Karl Marx of communism in the musical field". As always with these interrogations, Eisler was refused to read out his own statement. Although none of the allegations could be proven, the Eisler case was transferred to the Justice Department with a request to initiate deportation proceedings.

In September 1947 the book Composing for the Films , completed in 1944 and written with Adorno by Eisler, was published by Oxford University Press in New York under the sole author Eisler . However, Adorno - as Bloch mockingly wrote, "still quite pro-communist until 1932" - withdrew his authorship shortly before going to press after he had written that he wanted nothing to do with the Eisler brothers and their activities. It was not until 1969 that this book was published again under both names.

In October 1947, a National Committee for Justice for Hanns Eisler was formed under the leadership of Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein . This organized meetings and protests against the threat of Eisler's expulsion. Shortly thereafter, Brecht was interrogated (October 30) as the start of the persecution of the Hollywood Ten, the prominent left-wing directors and screenwriters. Brecht's interrogation lasted just an hour. The next day Brecht left the USA and flew to Zurich.

Despite all expressions of solidarity - including from Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann and a group of French intellectuals around Pablo Picasso - the Ministry of Justice ordered Hanns and Lou Eisler to be formally deported on February 12, 1948. After a final concert at New York Town Hall , conducted by Bernstein, financially supported by Aaron Copland, David Diamond , Roy Harris , Walter Piston , Roger Sessions and Randall Thompson , they flew over London and on March 26, 1948 on a Czechoslovak visa Prague to Vienna. A copy of the FBI file with a cover letter from John Edgar Hoover was given to the CIA for further observation, just in case. Fifteen years of exile, ten of them in the USA, came to an end. Woody Guthrie wrote the song Eisler on the Go after Eisler's deportation , but it was only 50 years later that Billy Bragg and Wilco set it to music and published it. In the song Guthrie laments the desperation and helplessness that the left artist elite felt at this point ( I don't know what I'll do / I don't know what I'll do / Eisler's on the come and go / and I don 't know what I'll do. ).

On May 7th, 1949 Gerhart Eisler hid on the Polish freighter Batory and fled as a stowaway via Southampton and Prague to East Berlin. His wife, Hilde Eisler, was arrested and forcibly deported after five weeks in prison in Ellis Island . She reached East Berlin some time after her husband.

Back in Vienna (1948–1949)

On April 1, 1948, after a detour via Prague , Hanns and Lou Eisler took an airplane to Tulln Airport not far from Vienna, with a huge number of autographs in their luggage , all of his American work, except for the film scores, which to this day are largely exclusively can be found in the archives of the film companies. Shortly after his arrival in Vienna, which was still shattered and divided into four parts, he met his first wife Charlotte and his now 20-year-old son Georg, whom he had last met 15 years earlier in London, but with whom he had been in regular mail contact.

In addition, Eisler experienced a Vienna that was drastically different from his time in emigration. There he led a life among émigrés, political thinkers and artists, in Vienna a different reality met him, because as a politically thinking and acting artist he became an enemy and lived in increasing political isolation.

In a letter to Lion Feuchtwanger on April 27, Eisler wrote that he felt very motivated, the living conditions, which were very meager, did not bother him. With the Austrian Radio Orchestra he had recorded various chamber music from the USA, with - as he wrote - "poorly nourished artists". In May, the next trip abroad followed to Prague for the Prague Spring music festival and the International Congress of Composers and Music Critics. Eisler arranged the composition for the feature film Křížová trojka (Three of Clubs ) with the state film production company .

Back in Vienna, Eisler met the KPÖ politician Ernst Fischer , on whom Eisler apparently made a great impression. The Eislers drove with him as an Austrian delegation to the World Congress for Peace in Poland. This stay was the beginning of a liaison between Fischer and Louise Eisler (née Gosztony), which led to Eisler's divorce and marriage in September 1955.

During this time Eisler got to know Stephanie Wolf , née Peschl, a very talented musician from a classic social democratic family in the Vienna working-class district of Brigittenau and a graduate of the State Academy for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna . During the war years, Stephanie and her then Jewish partner Otto Wolf - from whom she had a child in 1940 while fleeing the Nazis in France - were a member of the Resistance in the resistance. After returning from France, the two married in April 1947 in Vienna. Stephanie had known Eisler's work and person for a very long time.

The situation in Vienna was very difficult, and the incidental music for Nestroy's play Höllenangst was very controversial when it was first performed in this version in the new Scala Theater in the Soviet sector of the city, mainly because the situation in the divided and occupied city had little objective criticism allowed. Eisler's music was discussed a lot, but it did not achieve any real success. In order to survive in this city, Eisler needed a permanent position, which he was denied. In the beginning he played a few times for a little money as an accompanist to the then usual opening program in a Viennese cinema.

Eisler did not exist for the musical Vienna of that time, the term Schoenberg student exceeded the ideas of the music rulers at the time, who also partially exercised the same functions as in the immediate past ( the "annexation" of Austria to the "Third Reich" 1938–1945 ) . For him it was the same situation as in 1925: As then, there was no job for him. He hesitantly accepted an invitation from the Berlin Radio . Together with Brecht, he took part in a peace rally at the German State Opera on October 25 , where he met Ernst Busch for the first time in eleven years . After a long flight and subsequent imprisonment as a partially paralyzed man, he ran his own record company ( Lied der Zeit ) with an affiliated music and book publisher since 1946 .

Eisler immediately returned to Vienna, whereas Brecht stayed in Berlin until February 1949 to stageMother Courage and Her Children ” at the Deutsches Theater under the directorship of Wolfgang Langhoff and to advance his own project, the Berliner Ensemble . Then Brecht drove back to Zurich, in order to finally move to East Berlin with Helene Weigel in June 1949, like Hanns Eisler. At that time Eisler had already held talks with DEFA , the GDR's state-owned film studio, for future film work and also with representatives from the university sector about a possible professorship at Humboldt University . These job opportunities, Busch's publishing house and record company as well as the prospect of the establishment of the Berliner Ensemble were the decisive factors in the decision to move to Berlin. Outside of the circles of the KPÖ , which had provided him with an apartment in Wieden , the fourth district of Vienna, which at that time was in the Soviet occupation and administrative zone , and its affiliated organizations, Eisler met cold rejection in Vienna. However, Lou and Hanns Eisler retained their Austrian citizenship until they died.

Eisler in the GDR, 1949–1957 (until Brecht's death)

In Berlin

The first person Eisler met on June 22, 1949 after his arrival was Johannes R. Becher , who soon after became the first culture minister of the GDR . As chairman of the Kulturbund , it is thanks to him that many returning artists received generous support for a new beginning in the form of apartments and the necessary papers. It was the elite of the spirit of the time before 1933. What united them, whether they were communists or not, was their identification with a new social project that was being tackled in the Soviet occupation zone and later in the GDR: the construction of another, of a Germany striving for socialism. Above all, the opportunities that resulted from the Berlin publishing house of the Kulturbund, Aufbau-Verlag , which reissued many of the works of the returnees on a large scale. The GDR wanted and needed these political emigrants. The price of serving the GDR was high for many emigrants:

"Even the suppression of oppositional currents, the spread of a heartless and unimaginative party bureaucratism or the endless patronizing and meddling attempts of party functionaries in their own area of ​​art and cultural policy, they all too often tried to downplay as inevitable steps on the way to socialism."

- Matthias Braun : culture island and instrument of power.

The first time in Berlin he lived with Lou in a left wing of the Hotel Adlon before they moved into a house in Pankow-Niederschönhausen in March 1950 . With its beautiful terrace and large garden, this domicile offered an ideal place for creative work. Arnold Zweig and Ernst Busch lived nearby. Eisler took advantage of this situation immediately, he couldn't complain about a lack of work. The soundtrack for the DEFA film Our Daily Bread was created in quick succession, directed by Slatan Dudow , with whom he and Brecht had already worked together with Brecht in 1932 for the film Kuhle Wampe or: Who Owns the World? has worked.

The Rhapsody for large orchestra was written for Goethe's 200th birthday and was re-released on CD in 1996 . The world premiere of this work took place on August 26, 1949 in the German National Theater in Weimar. It was there that Eisler met Thomas Mann, an old friend from his time in Pacific Palisades.

Divided Germany - two hymns

Two months after Eisler moved to Pankow-Niederschönhausen, Germany was divided. The Federal Republic was constituted on May 23, 1949, and the German Democratic Republic on October 7 . At the end of October, Johannes R. Becher invited Eisler to a Goethe celebration in Warsaw . There he gave him a poem he had written and asked him to compose a melody. In the afternoon of the same day they drove together to Żelazowa Wola to the birthplace of Chopin , where Eisler played him the melody on Chopin's old piano. That was the hour of birth of Auferstanden ausüsten , the national anthem of the GDR, first a cappella for a singing voice, later a version for mixed choir and orchestra was added. The premiere was on the 32nd anniversary of the October Revolution on November 7th in the German State Opera, in February 1950 it was declared the official anthem by the People's Chamber . For this, Becher and Eisler received the first-class first-class national prize on October 7, 1950 .

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, parts of the then GDR civil rights movement and various artists and intellectuals in the Federal Republic made the proposal that the song, Anmut sparet , which Brecht described as a children's anthem , should not be used as a new common national anthem. However, this idea was not worth discussing by the federal government at the time. In addition, the proposal was discussed to declare the text of the GDR national anthem with the music of the Deutschlandlied as a unified new national anthem . That did not happen either.

Songs for the new masses - a new style

Not militant marching songs, but songs that were supposed to accompany the socialist construction were in demand in the new state. The issue was not the fight against existing conditions, but rather a call for participation in the creation of new conditions. Friendly tones were required, not the routine of old marching songs. For this Eisler developed symphonic versions of his two most famous songs, the Solidarity Song and the United Front Song . This was done by using the themes of these songs within strict musical pieces. Brecht wanted Eisler to set his text of the future song to music, but he refused, so that Paul Dessau put it in tones. Together with Johannes R. Becher, the song of the blue flag was written and then within a short time fourteen more that formed the cycle Neue deutsche Volkslieder , as well as four others in autumn 1950. As Jürgen Schebera wrote, these songs were musically very detailed, however the lyric was too pathetic and pervaded by a fictitious social claim to become really popular. It turned out that the aesthetic positions of Eisler and Becher diverged more and more, the work together became increasingly listless. Brecht approached Eisler with a children's song book and six songs were written, of which Die Pappel vom Karlsplatz and the Children's Peace Song, whose text goes back to Pablo Neruda , are the best known, plus the children's anthem.

Eisler and the GDR cultural policy

From the end of 1949 Eisler was active in the preparatory committee of the German Academy of the Arts , which saw itself as the successor to the Prussian Academy of the Arts founded in 1696. It was constituted on May 24, 1950 with a ceremony in the Admiralspalast . Eisler was elected a full member and co-founded the music section. Heinrich Mann, who was still in California at the time, was asked to be the academy president and accepted. While preparing for the move to Berlin, Mann died 14 days before the academy was founded. Therefore Arnold Zweig took over the presidency. In 1973 the name was changed to the German Academy of the Arts of the GDR . The Academy of the Arts (West) was only founded in 1954.

On October 1, 1949, a master class in composition led by Eisler was established. The group lessons for his students always took place on Saturday afternoons in his house on Pfeilstrasse. This was very similar to the lessons Eisler had had at Schönberg's apartment in Mödling. One month after the academy opened, classes began at the Berlin State Conservatory, the forerunner of today's Hochschule für Musik , which has been labeled Hanns Eisler since 1964 . Eisler received a professorship for composition there.

For a joint theater work with Brecht, a play by Erwin Strittmatter , Eisler wrote the incidental music, which consisted of eight chants and four instrumental peasant music. The piece premiered on May 23, 1953 at the Berliner Ensemble, at a time when a political campaign was reaching its climax because of his unfinished opera project Johann Faustus, which he composed in 1951 and 1952 .

The Faustus debate and the formalism resolution of the SED

The arts are honored / and, if necessary, / with all severity / in our lands. "

- Hanns Eisler : Faust libretto

The background to the debate was the ideological cultural struggle for German identity and the standpoint of the official GDR self-image about “maintaining national culture”. The accusation in New Germany was that its design hit “the German national feeling in the face”. The composer has "not yet overcome the influences of homeless cosmopolitanism". Walter Ulbricht railed that the SED would not allow “one of the most important works of our great poet Goethe to be disfigured into a caricature” and continued: We are fighting this falsification and distortion of German culture, against this disregard for German cultural heritage, for the defense of the great achievements of our classics in all areas.

The first suggestion to approach this subject reached back to Eisler's exile in California. Thomas Mann had been working on his novel Doctor Faustus since 1943 and presented the manuscript several times to Eisler and others for discussion. Mann describes this and the joint, cheerful conversations about it in Arnold Schönberg's house in The Origin of Doctor Faustus . When the book appeared in 1947, Eisler was one of the first to read it.

Eisler finished the first draft of his Faust libretto on July 13, 1951, and it was also the anniversary of the death of his teacher Arnold Schönberg, about whom he only found out two days later. Already at this time he had deep doubts about his way of working, he felt pushed out of the previous spontaneity and eagerness to experiment and tried to achieve what he wrote was a mature, well-rounded, valid performance . At the same time, he had the right to write this libretto in such a way that it would be understood by everyone, an opera that likes you and you with the people, by reintroducing the elements of popular drama. Eisler resorted to the early puppetry as the original form of transmission of the popular material, renewed by a performance by an Erzgebirge puppet theater, and to the Viennese character Hanswurst, the Kasperl , who was very familiar to him from his time in Vienna in 1921, as it is in his diary entries can be read.

In spite of his doubts about the first draft, he sent the manuscript to Thomas Mann and Lion Feuchtwanger, who were still in the United States and who, in their reaction to the draft, both certified it a "work of high poetic rank" . Eisler also discussed the piece with Brecht while it was being written. Mann remarked in his letter that "the whole thing is pretty provocative" . After completion in August 1952, Eisler handed the manuscript over to the Aufbau-Verlag and the book was published in October 1952.

The extremely violent reaction that followed was completely surprising for him and was shaped by the fact that the publication fell at a time when the so-called “ formalism ” was rushed against and an unconditional demand for “socialist realism” and “optimistic works of art” was expected. This demand culminated in the so-called formalism resolution of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) of March 1951. At this time, the test performance of Brecht's and Dessau's opera Das Verhör des Lukullus took place as a closed event , which was revised after a heated debate and in the following Autumn when The Condemnation of Lucullus was played publicly. An exhibition by Ernst Barlach in the Akademie der Künste was also attacked; performances of Eisler's atonal and twelve-tone early and exile works were unthinkable. Songs for Ernst Busch who attacked the Korean War ( Ami go home and No, Susanna ) had a performance ban because they were formalistic. It went so far that Ernst Busch was banned from performing for a long time and his songs were banned from broadcasting on the GDR radio .

At the same time, there were new show trials and purges in various Eastern Bloc countries . In December 1952, eleven of the 14 defendants were executed in the Slansky trial in Prague , including an old friend of Eisler, Otto Katz, alias André Simone. Gerhart Eisler, head of the Information Office of the GDR government from late 1949 to 1952, and Albert Norden lost their jobs for several years. Paul Merker, a Mexico emigrant, was imprisoned for several years. Many other artists and intellectuals, however, avoided the debate about themselves because of their particular loyalty to the line. The basis of these activities was the resolution of the SED of July 29, 1948 on the "organizational consolidation of the party and its cleansing of degenerate and hostile elements" .

The reactions were not unexpected when the last lines of the Confessio (confession, confession) of Faust, shortly before his death, are examined more closely. It's not about religion, God, the devil, sin and salvation, but about class struggle and betrayal:

my own strength, I shook hands with the gentlemen.
I've sunk deeper than deep,
I've gambled my life away.
For whoever
shakes hands with the masters will wither them.
The first step was followed by the second;
on the third I was lost.
Now I perish miserably,
and so everyone should go
who does not have the courage
to stand up for his cause.

Eisler: Faust, Confessio

As Knut Mellenthin writes, "Eisler seems to have been the first author to consistently place the figure of Faust in the class struggles of his time."

At the same time as Johann Faustus was published, an essay by Ernst Fischer appeared in the magazine Sinn und Form with the title Doctor Faustus and the German Peasants' War . In it, Fischer emphasized the qualities of the text and demanded that Dr. To declare Faustus a German national opera without being able to assess the consequences of this formulation. For his formulation, "Eisler reproduced a central figure of the German misery , and declared the German humanists as renegades ", Fischer was attacked violently.

This picture shows Hanns Eisler on the left and Bertolt Brecht on the right.  As is so often the case, Brecht is holding a cigar in his left hand, Eisler is wearing a coat and is standing with his arms crossed.  The picture itself is undated, but must have been taken after 1950 and comes from the German Federal Archives.
Hanns Eisler in conversation with Bertolt Brecht

On three evenings on the occasion of the so-called Wednesday Society at the Academy of the Arts, a debate about the work took place, in which Johannes R. Becher, Bertolt Brecht, Arnold Zweig, Helene Weigel and others took part, who, moving away from Eisler's work, became one fundamental debate about Goethe developed. Alexander Abusch , the spokesman for the attack and at that time the Federal Secretary of the Kulturbund for Democratic Renewal and member of the board of the GDR Writers' Association, prevented a qualitative discussion of Eisler's work, and attempts were made to bring the ideological weakness of the text to the fore. In this debate Eisler was only supported by Brecht, Felsenstein and Zweig; many others opportunistically took the position of "prosecutor" Abusch. The Moscow emigrant Hans Rodenberg (Director of DEFA) went into the formulation that the figure of the Faustus depicted was basically a “Titoist person” .

Eisler was extremely surprised by the intensity of the first evening and therefore prepared conscientiously with his brother Gerhart for the second evening of the discussion. He wrote to his wife Lou, who was just in Vienna: "... when you rage against the piece like that, you build strength and you get an appetite to hold on."

On the following Wednesday by the same day in New Germany published articles The "Faust" problem and the German history from a spokesman of the evening debate, Wilhelm Girnus was medially prepared, hidden behind the editorial collective, Eisler could defend well By accusing his critics of not having read the text carefully, Brecht presented his Twelve Theses on the Faustus Discussion as a prime example of dialectical debating. The result was that they adjourned for two weeks. On June 2nd, four letters to the editor were published in Neues Deutschland - as one can assume, ordered by the SED - from working people who gave free rein to their outrage against “such a frivolous mockery of what is perhaps the most ingenious masterpiece that has become dear to the German people” and the sharpest protest raised.

At the third discussion round on June 10, 1953, Eisler only gave a short answer, and a third, that of the functionary of the labor movement, Hermann Duncker , joined the pro voices of Brecht, Felsenstein and Zweig . But it didn't help, the cultural functionary Walter Besenbruch went so far as to claim that this work was the pleasure of digging through the dirt , which led to a brief scandal with Brecht. The debates ended without any resolutions or determinations. The finale was Walter Ulbricht , as he said afterwards days in an address to arts and cultural sector following:

“We are also fighting our fight for the care of our great German cultural heritage [...] by not allowing one of the most important works of our great German poet Goethe to be formally defaced, that the great idea in Goethe's Faust becomes one Caricatures because it happened in some works in the GDR, for example in the so-called Faustus by Eisler and in the staging of Urfaust. "

- Walter Ulbricht : on the Faustus debate

The GDR first performance of the text took place in 1982 in the Berliner Ensemble .

June 17, 1953

A few days after Ulbricht's speech, the events of June 17, 1953 took place . The next day Eisler sent the following text to the ADN news agency as a declaration of loyalty to the GDR, although it is not certain whether it was circulated:

“I have always stood up for the workers cause in my entire life and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. But what happened yesterday in Berlin did not benefit the cause of the German working class, neither (in) their legitimate economic demands, nor (in) their national interests, nor (in) their legitimate endeavors to correct grave errors. The enemies of the workers have benefited from what happened yesterday and we must now do everything we can to ensure that all strata of the population - workers, peasants, middle class, intelligentsia and the government - together hold a ruthless self-criticism, so that our construction and ours Ascent is not endangered by (such) serious mistakes (as in the past). (These difficult days also present us artists with great new responsibilities) "

- Hanns Eisler : Typoscript ADN June 18, 1953

On June 18, the Akademie der Künste submitted proposals for changing the cultural-political situation, which had been largely formulated by Eisler and Brecht. These were immediately rejected in the ND with the title: About justified criticism and appearances of opportunism in questions of art . Brecht then retired to his summer house for months and wrote his Buckower elegies with the poem The Solution , in which it says at the end: “Would it be there / wouldn't it be easier, the government / dissolved the people and / elected another? "

It was a difficult time for Eisler in several ways. On the one hand he was burdened by the criticism of his Faustus opera, on the other hand his wife Lou gave him the opportunity to stay with Ernst Fischer in Vienna. After visiting a restaurant and bar in West Berlin , he could n't pay the taxi to East Berlin and was picked up by the police. This event was described in detail in the "Westpresse" and later reappeared in the declassified FBI files.

Intermezzo in Vienna

In order to gain some distance, Eisler traveled to Vienna in mid-July 1953 and recorded the composition for "his" Dr. Faustus up again. In his diary, in which he wrote again for the first time since 1921, one can read: It is with hesitation and hesitation that I go to the composition of my Dr. Faustus, full of discouragement from all the difficulties . However, the attempts were limited to one scene in the second act.

Some stage music for friends and a commissioned film made him think differently. In addition, Brecht traveled to Vienna in mid-October to watch his mother's preparations at Scala in Vienna. Helene Weigel and Ernst Busch played the main roles. Eisler was involved in rehearsing the music. During this time the Vienna Brecht boycott began , and Brecht had already returned to Berlin.

At the end of October, Eisler wrote a letter to the Central Committee of the SED in Berlin, in which he described his situation and noted that he had a huge work of unpublished chamber and orchestral music as well as songs and cantatas, and that this needed further processing. He wrote:

“Musicians who performed or reviewed my works were treated as representatives of an undesirable art movement” and “after the Faustus attack I noticed that I had lost any impulse to write music, so I fell into a state of deepest depression. as I have hardly ever experienced it. "

In the introduction to the letter, Eisler apologized for the “Berlin affair” and thus exercised the self-criticism that is always required. He closed the letter by saying that he did not want to and could not continue his work anywhere other than the Democratic Republic of Germany:

"I can only imagine my place as an artist in that part of Germany where the foundations of socialism are being rebuilt."

Confrontation with the Central Committee and the 1955 film year

Just one month later, on November 30, 1953, Eisler received a letter from the Akademie der Künste with permission for the planned Eisler edition as a multi-volume edition. He stayed in Vienna for some time as the Fidelio film project still had to be completed. He returned in February 1954 and immediately and under time pressure began work on the first volume of his vocal works, songs and cantatas , together with the editors of the Breitkopf & Härtel publishing house in Leipzig. The first volume, songs and cantatas , appeared in the spring of 1955, the entire work in ten volumes was not completed until 1966.

Nevertheless, he had to return to Vienna for work. Fidelio had to be completed, and within three days Eisler created another Hamlet music for the stage for the theater in der Scala . Together with Karl Paryla , he wrote the script and music for the film adaptation of Millöcker's operetta Gasparone in the summer of 1954 .

Brecht had had his own house since March 1954 and asked Eisler by letter with the words: "I hope you will come soon" to take over the stage music for Johannes R. Becher's tragedy Winter Battle . It was the play about the defeat of the German armed forces in front of Moscow and the tragedy of the Germans at the front and at home. The premiere was on January 12, 1955. Eisler later summarized the music to form the Winter Battle Suite .

Eisler used the celebrations for Arnold Schönberg's 80th birthday on December 17, 1954 as an opportunity in his lecture to send an unmistakable signal against the ongoing formalism debate and to counteract his opponents from the Faustus debate at the time . To shame the audience, he invented a respectable "Chinese proverb": "He who does not honor his teacher is worse than a dog". In this lecture, Eisler calculated hard with his critics. Without the word formalism being mentioned , it was clear to every listener what was meant. A Schoenberg debate was too sensitive for New Germany ; only the specialist music press reacted. The Akademie der Künste took a stand by stating that they: "[...] with all the differences in spiritual origin and taste, unanimously stand in awe of the creative greatness of the composer and man Arnold Schönberg".

As an Austrian, Eisler had to apply for a visa to re-enter the GDR for all of his travels; a secretariat meeting of the Central Committee in the presence of Walter Ulbricht dealt with this. In the meeting after his lecture, Eisler was no longer referred to as a comrade , contrary to all previous practice . It should be noted that Eisler was never a member of the SED . Despite the resistance of various small political minds, his trips, especially to Vienna, continued to be approved.

After two years of separation, Eisler's marriage to Lou was divorced in March 1955 in Vienna. This happened at the time when he was creating the music for the film Mr. Puntila and his servant Matti in the film studios of Wien-Film am Rosenhügel. This film remained relatively unknown - and with it the music too - because Wien-Film hired the Brazilian Alberto Cavalcanti to direct it . Although he was an excellent documentary filmmaker of his time, he could not do much with the style and requirements of Brecht's epic theater. In 1956 Eisler put together the fifteen-part Puntila Suite for small orchestra from this music .

During the shooting, Eisler met Stephanie Zucker-Schilling again, who worked as an interpreter for Cavalcanti, and got to know her better. Both had met for the first time in 1948, when she was still married to Otto Wolf. In 1958, Stephanie divorced Erwin Zucker-Schilling , the former editor-in-chief of the central body of the KPÖ, which suggests a closer relationship with Eisler at this point in time. Both worked on the remake of Bel Ami with the leading actor Johannes Heesters , directed by Louis Daquin , with Stephanie in turn as an interpreter. The premiere was in 1957, but unlike the operetta-like version by Willi Forst from 1939, this film remained largely unknown.

In autumn, shortly before his return to Berlin, Eisler completed, at Brecht's request, incidental music for Die Gesichte der Simone Machard , which he had begun in California in 1943 . Brecht wanted to perform it in Frankfurt am Main, the production did not take place until 1957, a year after Brecht's death.

For Eisler, 1955 was primarily a film year. Back in Berlin, he received an invitation from Alain Resnais from Paris to compose the music for an Auschwitz film. Resnais knew Eisler's work from Renoir's film The Woman on the Beach and promised to commit a German composer, a moral guarantee , as Schebera wrote in his book. Eisler replied succinctly in a telegram: “Hello, I'm coming. Eisler ” . After seeing the rough cut, he traveled to Paris in December and composed the music for the film Nuit et brouillard . This work is certainly one of the most important film scores on this subject, sixteen minutes of film music in a film that is only 34 minutes long. For this work Eisler received the prestigious Prix ​​Jean Vigo in Paris in 1956 . Resnais was able to receive several international awards for this film in the following years. As was customary at the time, the German translation of the film was made separately for the GDR (by Henryk Kreisch ) and the Federal Republic of Germany (by Paul Celan ).

Nuit et Brouillard was selected as a French film contribution to the Cannes Film Festival in 1956. At the last moment, however, Minister Henry Lemaire withdrew his approval because the German ambassador had lodged a complaint with the French Foreign Office. The German protest was that “Nuit et Brouillard” incited “anti-German hatred”, an anti-German hatred. Karl Korn wrote in 1956 in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that one had expected "psychologically unpleasant consequences for the Germans". In Germany, however, the “scandal” surrounding the film, which was excluded from the festival, led to a critical reception: “What began initially as an international scandal became a site for a prolonged consideration and discussion of the Nazi past within Germany” (Was originally as an international The scandal began, became a platform for further consideration and discussion of the Nazi past in Germany). Most of the discussion in the press focused mainly on the question of guilt and accountability. Responsibility was seen as a necessity and task of the present generation for common remembrance and contrasted with individual guilt. In this way, Nuit et Brouillard became the “site for the articulation of generational conflicts and for confronting an aging ruling class left largely intact after the war.” (The scene for a generation conflict and the confrontation with a still determining and intact group of the elderly the war).


On the XX. At the 1956 party congress of the CPSU , Khrushchev criticized the personality cult around Stalin and the crimes associated with it in his secret speech on February 25, thus initiating Europe - wide de-Stalinization . For the first time, the crimes of Stalinist terror against non-comrades and comrades were disclosed, initially without specifying the number of victims. This was a severe blow to the generation that believed in the third thing . The text of this secret speech was not published, it was read out in party meetings and various bodies. Eisler learned of this through a reading in the composers' association.

Among other things, prisoners were released from the Gulag , one of them was Hedwig Gutmann , known as Hedi, an architect who had been doing forced labor for sixteen years. A letter from her to Brecht, written before Khrushchev's speech, reached Eisler. Both were of the opinion that she was no longer alive and tried hard to get her release, which came about in the spring of 1957. For the time being, she lived with Eisler on Pfeilstrasse. After she had signed the State Security of the GDR not to speak about her experiences, she was assigned an apartment in Berlin-Friedrichshain. Hedi Gutmann lived there until 1967 and died in 1972 in a retirement home in Berlin.

Brecht's death

After his two great works Mother Courage (1949) and The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1954) - both with the music of Paul Dessau - Brecht wanted to promote the performance of another piece, written in exile, Life of Galileo, and stage it in the Berliner Ensemble in 1956 . Ernst Busch was won over for the main role and rehearsals began in the spring. At the same time it was announced that this piece would be performed at La Scala in Vienna for June of the same year, with Karl Paryla in the title role. Eisler took over the musical direction of both productions and began recording with the Leipzig Thomanerchor in April .

At the beginning of May, Brecht interrupted the rehearsals to cure the consequences of a virus flu in the Berlin Charité . Eisler went to Vienna for rehearsals. The premiere of the piece in the Scala Vienna was on June 9, 1956; it was the last one in this theater because it got caught up in the cultural-political disputes after the Austrian State Treaty . With the withdrawal of the Soviet occupation troops, it was finally closed at the end of June, as the City of Vienna no longer extended the lease.

Eisler returned to Berlin and found that Brecht had been released from the Charité but had not recovered. They met at his house in Buckow to talk about a performance of Die Tage der Commune in Karl-Marx-Stadt . Eisler knew that Brecht was seriously ill, and wrote him the last letter on August 9, in which he "as a communist" asked him to stop his work for the time being and assured him that he was irreplaceable. Five days later, Brecht died at the age of 58. The planned performance of the Life of Galilei in Berlin did not take place until January 15, the direction was taken over by Erich Engel , who had already directed the premiere of the Threepenny Opera in 1928 , instead of Brecht .

For Eisler, Brecht's death meant on the one hand a deep, personal despair, on the other hand the obligation to continue open, previously discussed projects. In the same and the following year four large works were created. For the project: Schwejk in the Second World War , written in 1943 in American exile, Brecht had asked him for the incidental music for a premiere planned for January in the Warsaw Theater of the Polish Army , which Eisler had already started in June 1956 and Brecht had already started in parts could pretend. The final version of Schweik's music was not ready until 1961.

In addition, he wrote the cantatas The Carpet Weavers by Kujan-Bulak for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, the legend of the creation of the book Taoteking on Laotse's Path into Emigration for voice and piano. The last of these four works was pictures from the War Primer for soloists, male choir and orchestra in autumn 1957 .

Second Brecht boycott in the Federal Republic

In 1953 there was a boycott of Brecht plays on German theaters, and in 1957 there was a second wave, which led to many theaters in Germany canceling agreed Brecht premieres. The world premiere of The Face of Simone Machard on March 8th in Frankfurt am Main, staged by Harry Buckwitz , then General Director of the Städtische Bühnen, was a great success that was positively appreciated in the reviews.

The then West German Foreign Minister Heinrich von Brentano expressed in a parliamentary speech on May 9: "The drama Brecht provide not constitute a meaningful expression of German cultural heritage [...], the late poetry of Brecht can be rather with the Horst Wessel compare ". Eisler replied:

“But Brentano!
What do you have against your Horst Wessel again? How often have you sung his song, you old Ural striker, you, with shock and eternal loyalty to the Führer until further notice! And now you compare your favorite poet with the notorious communist Brecht?
What will Globke say? What groom ? What Speidel ?
What about the high officials, officers and SS comradeship associations? What will Sepp Dietrich say? (He gets quick-tempered so easily!) You can't just spit in the face of your friends and closest co-workers!
Correct yourself, Brentano, correct yourself. In the next Bundestag debate, you declare: "Of course I was far from disparaging the memory of Horst Wessel by comparing it with the notorious communist Brecht!"
Do it quickly, Brentano, before your men chase you away. "

- Hanns Eisler : on May 12th in Neues Deutschland

The last years (1957–1962)

Back in berlin

It was important for Eisler that Stephanie Wolf decided to move from Vienna to Berlin. It was a personal new beginning for him.

At that time Eisler met Gisela May at a Brecht matinee at the German Theater in February 1957. She stood in for a sick colleague at short notice and played so convincingly that he spontaneously went backstage to congratulate her. This was followed by an intensive collaboration between the two, also in the same year with the soprano Irmgard Arnold , who was engaged at the Komische Oper at the time. The result was several records that were produced together with May and Arnold. Eisler brought Andre Asriel together with Irmgard Arnold. Asriel subsequently became her constant piano accompanist. In the late autumn of 1956, Ernst Busch began to sing again, the end of a long break forced by the GDR cultural bureaucracy. In January 1957, at a Tucholsky matinee, Busch sang five newly set Tucholsky texts (Purchases, Ideal and Reality, Happy Expectation, The Smoking Man and Christmas 1918) as well as some songs from the 1930s.

In 1949, Eisler said on the subject of battle songs that caution should be exercised for a while. For the Soviet revolutionary play Sturm by Wladimir Bill-Belozerkowski with Ernst Busch in the lead role, which was staged by Wolfgang Langhoff at the Deutsches Theater , Eisler prepared, among other things, three Mayakovsky songs in real “battle song style”, plus eight instrumental pieces. The premiere on December 3, 1957 was a great success.

For Ernst Busch it was the last theater role because he kept falling ill. From then on he only devoted himself to his record productions.

Film music

In 1945 Eisler composed the music for the American pirate film Die Seeteufel von Cartagena (The Spanish Main) . It was found that his music had a decisive influence on the film. In 1956 Eisler was commissioned to compose the score for the Franco-East German film Die Hexen von Salem . It was a film adaptation of Arthur Miller's drama Witch Hunt . The screenplay was written by Jean-Paul Sartre and directed by Raymond Rouleau . Eisler composed this pure instrumental music in March 1957 in Paris.

In 1958 the music for the film followed: Geschwader Fledermaus directed by Erich Engel and at the end of 1959 the music for the film adaptation of the Balzac play Trübe Wasser , also a Franco-East German joint production directed by Louis Daquin , whom Eisler knew from Vienna . In addition, there was music for various television games of the German television station in East Berlin.

Life in Niederschönhausen

Memorial plaque on the house at Pfeilstrasse 9 in Berlin-Niederschönhausen

On June 26, 1958, shortly before his 60th birthday, Eisler and Stephanie Wolf married in Berlin. The house in Pfeilstrasse was filled with friends again, his brother Gerhart's political rehabilitation took place as early as 1956. At the end of 1958, a new guest, Wolf Biermann , often came to Niederschönhausen. At that time he was an assistant at the Berliner Ensemble and was just writing his first songs. After Eisler's death, Biermann wrote the poem: Hanns Eisler or the anatomy of a sphere . Biermann referred to Eisler as his teacher. Arnold Zweig and Ernst Busch were also guests, they were direct neighbors, Hans Bunge and Nathan Notowicz and the young playwright Heiner Müller . The evenings with the biting humor owed Eisler his reputation as a funny and witty person. His witty sayings fill a book of their own.

The last work

On May 22, 1959, the West German premiere of Schweyk during World War II in Frankfurt am Main was an outstanding success. At this time Ernst Busch asked Eisler to set Tucholsky texts for a record project; A total of 37 songs were written during this time, with which Eisler, as a composer, set most of Tucholsky's texts to music. In addition to the Hollywooder songbook , this was his second extensive song collection. Before that, on November 22, 1958, the Lenin Requiem, which had been completed 20 years earlier with Brecht in Denmark, and the German Symphony on April 24, 1959 in the German State Opera, premiered. Before the concert, pictures from the war primer - See our sons bloodstained - pictures of desperate and freezing German Wehrmacht soldiers in Stalingrad were shown in an epilogue with the cantata . Walter Goehr , who emigrated to Great Britain, conducted the special concert of the GDR Staatskapelle.

When friends asked how he was doing, Eisler replied: I don't know, I have too much to do to think about it. All right then. Eisler was a heavy smoker and kept feeling exhausted. However, that did not prevent him from going on extensive work trips to Paris (completion of Trübe Wasser ) and Vevey in 1959 . There he delivered the certificate of appointment to the corresponding member on behalf of the Academy of Arts Charles Chaplin . This was the first meeting with him since his exile in the USA. Before that he was with Gisela May and Ernst Busch as well as the ensemble of the Deutsches Theater for the performance of a Brecht matinee in London.

In 1959 he was awarded the German Peace Medal.

In February 1960 Eisler suffered a heart attack in Vienna, which tied him to the hospital bed for three months. In June he returned to Berlin with Stephanie. The first work after his return was the setting of Brecht's poem The Plum Tree , which he dedicated to Stephanie's daughter Michèle and her husband Matthias Langhoff .

Two large commissioned works were waiting for Eisler, who, however, had to take great care: a symphony for the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra couldn't get beyond the first sketches, an opera version by Brecht's Turandot or The Congress of the White Washer for the German State Opera could no longer begin. At the beginning of 1961, he and his wife went on a convalescent trip to Switzerland and Italy.

Eisler's attitude towards the construction of the wall

With the construction of the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961, the “third wave” of the Brecht boycott began in the FRG. Eisler explained his position in a letter printed in the Weltbühne and criticized the open letter from Günter Grass and Wolfdietrich Schnurre to the writers of the GDR.

"Mr. Grass (seriously speaking), it doesn't work that way. We cannot dictate our political behavior to each other, although it would (not unamusingly) perhaps be useful (if I prescribed, suggest) to suggest to you what you should (should) be doing in the Federal Republic right now. I have some ideas. "

- Hanns Eisler : Excerpt from one of eight typescripts, HEGW, III / 2, p. 475.

Eisler called for a serious debate, which was no longer due to the tense situation.

Serious chants

At the end of August 1961 Eisler went to Paris and Lyon to be present at the French premiere and musical addition of Schweyk during World War II . At the beginning of 1962 he and his son Georg were in London for the British premiere of the German Symphony with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra . Georg Eisler first described how his father already saw the end of it. He commented on the great success with the words: It comes too late. Nevertheless, Eisler got up and wrote the incidental music for Friedrich Schiller's Wilhelm Tell back in Berlin . The premiere took place on March 19, 1962 at the Deutsches Theater in the production of Wolfgang Langhoff .

Grave of Hanns Eisler in the Dorotheenstadt cemetery with the "Flowers for Hanns Eisler" on the 50th anniversary of his death, September 6, 2012. His grave is an honorary grave of the State of Berlin

Eisler's last completed work was the cycle Ernste Gesänge for baritone and string orchestra, as he put it: a prelude and seven chants . Four of the eight texts used come from Friedrich Hölderlin , one each from Berthold Viertel , Giacomo Leopardi , Helmut Richter and Stephan Hermlin . This work is characterized by the fact that Schönberg and approaches of twelve-tone technique are presented individually for each piece in the finest manner. The selection of the texts was also a personal approach (Sadness, Chanson allemande [1953] , Asylum), his reaction to the XX. Party congress . With a few lines from a poem by Helmut Richter to live without fear, he expressed his hope for a human perspective of communism. It was his legacy and can be understood as a warning.

“The singer should endeavor to sing [sic] in a friendly, polite and light manner throughout. It doesn't depend on his inner workings, but he should try to convey the content to the listener rather than express it. Artificial coldness, false objectivity and lack of expression must be avoided, because ultimately it depends on the singer. "

- Hanns Eisler : Dedicated to my wife Steffy.

This compilation of compositions was his last work. The premiere took place posthumously on the first day of death. Eisler died of a heart attack on September 6, 1962 in Berlin. He was buried in the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof in Berlin-Mitte near Bertolt Brecht and Helene Weigel.

Musical creation (summary)

Eisler created a number of chamber music compositions in which he repeatedly dealt with the tradition of the classical and romantic art song without being a romantic himself . With equal strength he devoted himself to the working movement of music, such songs in the mass, such as the 1932 face of coming up fascism resulting Solidaritätslied .

In 1949 he wrote the GDR's national anthem with the title Resurrected from Ruins , for which the later Minister of Culture of the GDR, Johannes R. Becher, wrote the text.

Likewise, the setting of the children's hymn, Grace, which was written in the founding year of the GDR, does not yet save effort from him. In exile in European countries and in the USA as well as after the war, Eisler composed film scores for more than 40 films.

From the founding of the German University of Music in 1950, of which he was one of the founding members, until his death in 1962, Eisler worked as a composition teacher and conductor and led master classes. This university has had his name since 1964: the “Hanns Eisler” University of Music in Berlin .

On May 9, 1962, he founded the GDR Music Council and was its first president until his death in September of the same year.

Eisler wrote numerous chamber pieces, stage works and orchestral pieces as well as a large number of songs based on poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe , Friedrich Hölderlin , Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Tucholsky and others. He worked - in connection with his teacher Schönberg at the traditional level of composition practice - with the traditions of Viennese classicism as naturally as with those of modernity. A number of his works also deal with elements and structures of Eastern European and Yiddish folk music . Eisler was one of the most important artists of the international labor movement out of political conviction and in his compositional practice .

The Hanns Eisler Complete Edition aims to publish all of the composer's compositional and literary works.


The Hanns Eisler Archive is located in the archive of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, it covers 45 running meters. and approx. 200 vols. The Louise Eisler-Fischer collection is also located there.

Master student

Catalog raisonné

Hanns Eisler Prize


Audio samples


  • After years of effort, Hanns Eisler's birthplace in Leipzig was saved from deterioration, renovated and returned to residential use in 2017. A plaque on the facade provides information about Eisler's first stage in life, where he was born in the apartment of his maternal grandparents at the then Gartenstrasse 14.


Primary literature
  • Hanns Eisler: Collected Works . Founded by Nathan Notowicz, edited by Stephanie Eisler and Manfred Grabs on behalf of the Academy of Arts of the German Democratic Republic. VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1982.
    • Hanns Eisler: Music and Politics, Writings 1924–1948. Text-critical edition by Günter Mayer , VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1985,
    • Hanns Eisler: Music and Politics, Writings 1948–1962. Text-critical edition by Günter Mayer. VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1982.
    • Hanns Eisler: Conversations with Hans Bunge “Ask more about Brecht.” Collected Works, Series III, Volume 7. VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1975.
    • Theodor W. Adorno, Hanns Eisler: Composition for the film. Collected Works, Series III, Volume 4. VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1977, Roger & Bernhard, Munich 1969.
  • Nathan Notowicz: We're not talking about Napoleon here. We are talking about you! Hanns Eisler - Gerhart Eisler Conversations. Edited by Jürgen Elsner. Verlag Neue Musik Berlin, Leipzig 1971.
Secondary literature
  • Cornelia Szabó-Knotik: Eisler, Hanns. In: Oesterreichisches Musiklexikon . Online edition, Vienna 2002 ff., ISBN 3-7001-3077-5 ; Print edition: Volume 1, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-7001-3043-0 .
  • Eric Bentley: Thirty Years of Treason . New York 1971. (2002, ISBN 1-56025-368-1 )
  • David Blake (Ed.): Hanns Eisler - A Miscellany . Harwood Academic Publishers, Luxembourg 1995, ISBN 3-7186-5573-X .
  • Christian Glanz: Hanns Eisler, Work and Life . Edition Steinbauer, Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-902494-30-6 .
  • Manfred Grabs: Hanns Eisler. Compositions - Writings - Literature. A manual. Leipzig 1984.
  • Michael Haas, Wiebke Krohn (Ed.): Hanns Eisler, Mensch und Masse . Accompanying publication to the exhibition at the Jewish Museum Vienna from February 25 to July 12, 2009. Holzhausen, Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-901398-03-2 .
  • Hartmut Keil (Ed.): Are you or were you a member? Interrogation Records of Un-American Activities 1947–1956. Reinbek 1979.
  • Maren Köster (Ed.): Hanns Eisler - Heaven must be scared of hell . Archives on 20th Century Music. Volume 3. Commissioned by the Foundation Archive of the Academy of Arts. Wolke Verlag, Hofheim 1998, ISBN 3-902494-30-1 .
  • Thomas Phleps : "... I can't imagine anything more beautiful" - Hanns Eisler's exile work. In: Music and Musicians in Exile. Consequences of Nazism for International Music Culture. Edited by Hanns-Werner Heister, Claudia Maurer-Zenck and Peter Petersen. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1993, ISBN 3-596-10907-8 , pp. 475-511.
  • Eisler, Hanns. In: Brockhaus-Riemann Musiklexikon. CD-Rom, Directmedia Publishing, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-89853-438-3 , p. 3034 ff.
  • Jürgen Schebera: Eisler - a biography in texts, pictures and documents . Schott-Verlag, Mainz 1998, ISBN 3-7957-2383-3 .
  • Jürgen Schebera: Hanns Eisler in exile in the USA . Academy of Sciences of the GDR, Central Institute for the History of Literature. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1978.
  • Fritz Hennenberg: Hanns Eisler. Rowohlt monograph. Reinbek near Hamburg 1987, ISBN 3-499-50370-0 .
  • Dieter B. Herrmann: I agree with every praise. Hanns Eisler in conversation 1960–1962. Salier-Verlag, Leipzig / Hildburghausen 2009, ISBN 978-3-939611-32-5 .
  • Bernd Meyer-Rähnitz, Frank Oehme, Joachim Schütte: The "Eternal Friend" - Eterna and Amiga; The discography of the shellac records (1947–1961). Albis International Bibliophilen-Verlag, Dresden / Ústí 2006, ISBN 80-86971-10-4 .
  • Torsten Musial, Bernd-Rainer BarthEisler, Hanns . In: Who was who in the GDR? 5th edition. Volume 1. Ch. Links, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86153-561-4 .
  • Friederike Wißmann: Hanns Eisler - composer, cosmopolitan, revolutionary . Edition Elke Heidenreich at C. Bertelsmann, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-570-58029-5 .
  • Andrea F. Bohlman, Philip V. Bohlman : Hanns Eisler. “It's different in music”. Hentrich & Hentrich-Verlag, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-942271-67-7 .
  • Kay Less : 'In life, more is taken from you than given ...'. Lexicon of filmmakers who emigrated from Germany and Austria between 1933 and 1945. A general overview. ACABUS-Verlag, Hamburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-86282-049-8 , p. 154 f.

Web links

Commons : Hanns Eisler  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Schebera, Hanns Eisler in exile in the USA. P. 10.
  2. ots.at: Press release of the Jewish Museum Vienna , February 24, 2009.
  3. Although he only acknowledged his Austrian nationality in official applications, Eisler never gave up his Austrian citizenship. He was always evasive about feelings of belonging to a state or city. See Haas / Krohn (ed.): Hanns Eisler: Mensch und Masse.
  4. II self biography HEGW, III / 2, p 363rd
  5. Gina Klank, Gernot Griebsch: Lexicon of Leipzig street names. Verlag im Wissenschaftszentrum, Leipzig 1995, ISBN 3-930433-09-5 , p. 105
  6. Unveiling of the memorial plaque for Hanns Eisler at the birthplace in Leipzig. International Hanns Eisler Society (IHEG) eV, accessed on October 25, 2019 .
  7. ^ CA Hermann Wolff (1858–1915, Kapellmeister, music teacher, composer): Kurzgefaßte Allgemeine Musiklehre .
  8. ^ Conversation with Notowicz, April 21, 1958.
  9. Peter Jung: Erwin Piscator. The political theater. A comment. Berlin 2007, p. 297f.
  10. HEW III 1, p. 102, From the Workers' Choir, a collection of proletarian choirs, Universal Edition Vienna / Leipzig 1929.
  11. Hanns Eisler, Opus 36,2
  12. The torch . No. 827-833, p. 117, February 1930 and 834-837, p. 54 ff., May 1930.
  13. Nathan Notowicz: We're not talking about Napoleon here. We're talking about you, conversations with Hanns and Gerhart Eisler
  14. Berlin Stock Exchange Courier. May 12, 1930, cit. after Brecht: Collected Works Volume 17, p. 1030.
  15. In an interview with Eisler, titled: Das Lied, born in the fight of the Berliner Rundfunk in December 1957, Eisler speaks of 1928.
  16. Hanns Eisler in a radio interview in 1958, quoted in after: Eisler: Speeches and Essays , Leipzig 1961, p. 129.
  17. ^ Alfred Roth: The National Socialist mass song. Studies on genesis, ideology and function , Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 1993.
  18. ^ A b Stefan Zednik: The "German [n] Symphony" - Hanns Eisler's resistance work. In: Calendar sheet (broadcast on DLF ). April 24, 2019, accessed April 24, 2019 .
  19. HEGW III / 1, p. 395.
  20. HEGW III 1, p. 395f.
  21. ^ Joachim Schumacher: Memories of Hanns Eisler in music and society. Berlin / GDR, issue 10 1977.
  22. HEGW III, 3, p. 326.
  23. ^ Adorno in: TW Adorno, H.Eisler: Composition for the film. VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik, 1977, p. 9.
  24. Wolfgang Hufschmidt : Do you want to turn your lyre to my songs? On the semantics of musical language in Schubert's Winterreise and Eisler's Hollywood songbook . Plans, Dortmund 1986.
  25. Paul Dessau composed his great oratorio Deutsches Miserere for mixed choir, children's choir, solos, large orchestra, organ and trautonium together with Brecht from 1943 to 1947 , which was held on September 20, 1966 as part of the Days of Contemporary Music and the International Musicological Congress of the Society for Music research was premiered in Leipzig under the direction of Herbert Kegel . Only the third performance of the work was the West German premiere in the Musikhalle Hamburg on September 1, 1989, exactly 50 years after the start of the war.
  26. Schebera, Hanns Eisler in exile in the USA. P. 91.
  27. Schebera, Hanns Eisler in exile in the USA. P. 189 f.
  28. Notowicz: “We're not talking about Napoleon here. We're talking about you! ”P. 197 ff.
  29. Eisler's FBI files from Alexander Stephan: Im Visier des FBI, German writers in exile in the files of American secret services , Stuttgart, 1995.
  30. ^ IMDB, None But the Lonely Heart
  31. ^ Hanns Eisler Archive (HEA), undated letter from 1945.
  32. ^ HUAC interrogation protocol by Louis Budenz
  33. ^ Letter of April 27, 1944 to Hanns and Lou Eisler, published and quoted. from Ruth Fischer's estate, excerpts from the HUAC interrogation record
  34. Schebera, p. 189.
  35. ^ Copy of this letter in the Hanns Eisler Archive (HEA)
  36. ^ Interrogation protocol: Hanns Eisler before the “Committee for the Investigation of Un-American Activities” in: Jürgen Schebera, Hanns Eisel im USA-Exil, pp. 141–201.
  37. ^ Afterword to: Theodor W. Adorno / Hanns Eisler: Composition for the film , Munich 1969, p. 213.
  38. ^ Virgil Thomson, New York Herald Tribune, March 11, 1948.
  39. Woody Guthrie: Eisler on the Go . woodyguthrie.org (lyrics). Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. administered by Bug Music.
  40. Arbeiter-Zeitung of April 4, 1948, without exact reference to the date of arrival
  41. ^ Georg Eisler: Sketches .
  42. Schebera, p. 222.
  43. ^ Matthias Braun, Kulturinsel und Machtinstrument, The Academy of Arts, the Party and the State Security. Göttingen 2007, p. 40.
  44. Schebera, p. 229.
  45. Brecht, Labor Journal Volume 2
  46. Hans Bunge, The Debate about Hanns Eisler's Johann Faustus , Berlin 1991, p. 91 ff.
  47. Deborah Vietor-Engländer : Faust in the GDR , Frankfurt 1987, p. 154.
  48. Hanns Eisler, Notes on Dr. Faustus
  49. Hanns Eisler, Schriften 1948–1962. Berlin / GDR, 1982, p. 132ff.
  50. HEGW II, p. 16.
  51. Knut Mellenthin: A true and terrifying story - The dispute over Eisler's 1953 Faust draft .
  52. Bunge: The Debate about Hanns Eisler's “Johann Faustus”, p. 354.
  53. ^ Walter Ulbricht: On the history of the German workers' movement. Volume 4, Berlin / GDR 1954, p. 604.
  54. HEGW III / 2, p. 302 f.
  55. HEGW III 2, p. 309.
  56. ^ Copy of the letter in the HEA
  57. Brecht Briefe, pp. 722f.
  58. ^ Hans Mayer on the occasion of the establishment of the international Hanns Eisler Society in November 1994.
  59. Sinn und Form, 7th vol., No. 1, pp. 5–15.
  60. Music and Society, No. 11, Nov. 1955.
  61. ↑ Entry in the diary: "Variations: I acted morally on her / I touched her morally / Unfortunately I behaved morally against her." HEGW III / 2, p. 310.
  62. Christina Gerhardt, seminar paper: The film contribution 'Nuit et Brouillard' for the Cannes Film Festival in 1956 , University of Mannheim
  63. ^ Andrew Hebard: Disruptive Histories: Toward a Radical Politics of Remembrance in Alain Resnais's Night and Fog, pp. 87 ff
  64. Palm: From Boycott to Recognition, p. 132.
  65. handwritten letter draft from HEW.
  66. Frankfurter Rundschau, March 11, 1957, quoted in according to: Monika Wyss, Brecht in the criticism. Reviews of all Brecht world premieres. Munich 1977, p. 349.
  67. ^ New Germany (Berlin edition), Volume 12, No. 112
  68. Schebera, p. 266.
  69. Hans Peter Müller: I am a genius myself. Hanns Eisler in anecdotes, aphorisms and sayings. Berlin 1984.
  70. HEGW III 2, p. 399.
  71. Jens Rometsch: Hanns Eisler's birthplace in Leipzig has been saved - not far from Leipzig Central Station, an almost unbelievable story ended well yesterday. In 2002 the house where Hanns Eisler was born at Hofmeisterstraße 14 was almost demolished. Now it is freshly renovated , Leipziger Volkszeitung online, accessed on July 8, 2017
  72. The small 2-room apartment on the left on the ground floor has been acquired by the Leipzig Foundation - according to current plans, it should be available to music scholarship holders for stays of several months in cooperation with various Eisler initiatives.