Hanns Eisler

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Eisler, Hanns


Born July 6, 1898, in Leipzig; died Sept. 6, 1962, in Berlin. German composer and public figure (German Democratic Republic [GDR]). Member of the Academy of Arts of the GDR.

Eisler studied composition in Vienna with A. Schönberg from 1919 to 1923 and took up residence in Berlin in 1924. Although his early works show the influence of his teacher, Eisler’s progressive views, his study of Marxism, and his increasing contacts with the revolutionary movement made his art more democratic. Eisler worked closely with E. Weinert, B. Brecht, and the singer E. Busch, who performed many of his songs for the masses, and he taught and addressed workers’ choral groups.

Eisler composed many workers’ songs, marches, and ballads on current political topics, such as “Song of Solidarity,” “Song of the Unemployed,” “Song of the United Front,” “Red Wedding,” and “The Comintern.” He was a founder of a new style of revolutionary song for the masses. In addition, he composed works in the larger forms, including Requiem for Lenin (1937) and music for theatrical productions, notably the music to Brecht’s The Measures Taken (1930).

In 1938, after the fascists had come to power, Eisler emigrated to the USA, where he worked in Hollywood. Accused of un-American activities, he left the USA in 1948 as a “voluntary deportee.” He settled in Berlin in 1948 and played an active role in developing the musical culture of the GDR. In 1950 he began teaching composition at the Academy of Arts of the GDR and music theory at the Hochschule für Musik, which is now named in his honor. He helped found the Union of Composers and Musicologists of the GDR.

Eisler’s most important works include the cantatas German Symphony (1937), Serenade of the Age (1950), and The Carpet-weavers of Kuyan-Bulak (1957) and the symphonic triptych Song of Peace (1951). In his finest works Eisler combines the characteristic features of mass and revolutionary songs with varied means of musical expression. He used polyphony, atonal music, jazz elements, and folk song effects. Rhythm is an important organizing principle in Eisler’s vocal music, in which extensive use is made of recitative. His symphonic music is notable for its complex and subtle orchestration.

Eisler composed the national anthem of the GDR (words by Brecht), and he was awarded the National Prize of the GDR in 1949 and 1958.


Druskin, M. Gans Eisler i rabochee muzykal’noe dvizhenie v Germanii. Moscow, 1934.
Rebling, E. “Gans Eisler.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1957, no. 6.
Nest’ev, I. Gans Eisler i ego pesennoe tvorchestvo. Moscow, 1962.


References in periodicals archive ?
Actors play Schoenberg's friends and students Anton Webern, Alban Berg, Hanns Eisler and Alma Mahler.
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In the twentieth century, names such as Petr Eben and Hanns Eisler immediately stand out from the crowd.
From Weill he moved on naturally to those German and Austrian composers whose work had been so influenced one way or another by the Nazis, men like Hanns Eisler, Kurt Schwertsik and HK Gruber.
Solely Brecht's own contemplation of Laughton's Galileo and how his character took shape is included; omitted is the parallel description supplied by Brecht's friend Hanns Eisler of the same portrayal and how it developed in the case of Busch.
In that third category was his superb program "Exile" with the Deutsches Kammerorchester Berlin (led by concertmaster Gabriel AdorjEin) in which music by Gideon Klein, Mieczyslaw Weinberg, Erich Korngold, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Hanns Eisler, Erich Zeisl, Bronislaw Kaper and Werner Heymann enchanted the audience with rare and fascinating scores, five of which were written for film.
I am not a hero, I am a composer": Hanns Eisler in Hollywood.
Hanns Eisler was frequently quoted as crown witness, but claimed he did not know "how to render a flute sonata in a Socialist Realist key.
Born in St Petersburg in 1980, he studied at St Petersburg Conservatory, moving to the Berlin Hochschule Hanns Eisler in 1990.
Composers like Kurt Weill, Hanns Eisler, Franz Schreker, Franz Schreker, Alban Berg, Paul Hindemith, Arnold Schoenberg and Hans Pfitzner emerged from this era.
Hanns Eisler Gesamtausgabe, edited by the Internationale Hanns Eisler Gesellschaft, ser.