Austrian composer Hanns Eisler is best known for composing the national anthem of the German Democratic Republic, for his long partnership with Bertolt Brecht, and for his film scores. His promising career in Hollywood, however, was interrupted by the Cold War. Film studio bosses blacklisted his music, and he was subjected to two interrogations by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Despite efforts by his American musical powerhouse friends Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland, he was deported in 1948. In addition to the Oscar-nominated score for Fritz Lang’s film “Hangmen Also Die,” this release contains other rarely heard works by Hanns Eisler, in which the special interpretation Schonberg’s pupil had developed of theRead more twelve-tone technique plays an astonishingly important role for the field of film and orchestral music.
The composer wrote the first book on composing for film and treated the craft as an art in its own right. His score to Hangmen Also Die was nominated for a 1942 Oscar. The Grapes of Wrath is an alternative score to John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, which was being filmed at the time by John Ford with music by Alfred Newman. Eisler’s work, with a searing twelve-tone lament, is infinitely preferable. And then there is a serialist score for Joris Ivens’s Maiost propaganda film, The 400 Million, again a work of uncompromising power. Beautifully played. We really need to hear more Eisler.