Hanns Eisler composed more than five hundred songs, and his very first extant compositions include songs with piano accompaniment. On the fourth and last volume of their selections from Eisler’s songs, Holger Falk and Steffen Schleiermacher focus on his early works and bring to light an absolutely astonishing discovery: the young Hanns was an autodidact who had an incredible feel for the song part, and his artistic aspirations are also evident in the piano part.
Far and Near
Eisler transcends by far the mere imitation of models. Here we encounter free-tonal compositions as well as music of revue character, expressive passages as well as laconic ones. His choice of texts is likewise very broad. While Brecht became the focus in Eisler’s later work, here he concentrates on poems by Eichendorff and Büchner and by Trakl and Morgenstern. The songs set to Far Eastern poetry, in translations by Hans Bethge and Klabund, are very much in keeping with their times. Eisler even set newspaper advertisements to music!
War and Peace
Eisler composed his very first songs while as yet reflecting on World War I, most of which he spent in military hospitals. The texts and the mood are correspondingly gloomy, for example, in “Tod” or “Der müde Soldat.” By contrast, the Songs op. 2 borrow from the style of the Viennese school led by Arnold Schönberg, with whom Eisler studied counterpoint beginning in 1919. Broad intervals and extreme registers require the singer to give his all – something very typical of vocal works from Schönberg’s immediate circle.
Holger Folk masters such difficulties with bravura and finds just the right tone for this challenging music. Steffen Schleiermacher lends the difficult, sometimes harmonically unwieldy compositional texture a transparency that conveys the character of each and every song in the most advantageous light. The magnificent conclusion of an ambitious project!