Eisler: Septet No. 2 (Circus); Violin Sonata; Zeitungsausschnitte, Op. 11; Duo for Violin and Cello, Op. 7

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LABELS: Berlin Classics
WORKS: Septet No. 2 (Circus); Violin Sonata; Zeitungsausschnitte, Op. 11; Duo for Violin and Cello, Op. 7
PERFORMER: Roswitha Trexler (soprano), Walter Olbertz, Jutta Czapski (piano), Gustav Schmahl, Friedrich-Carl Erben, Ralf-Rainer Haase (violin), Arnim Orlamünde (viola), Karl-Heinz Schröter (cello), Manfred Friedrich (flute), Hans Himmler (clarinet), Herbert Heilmann
Hanns Eisler was the nearest thing that East Germany had to an official composer, and these recordings, dating from 1965-73, all come from there. But none of the pieces does – Eisler’s chamber music is concentrated in the years 1920-27 and 1932-47. The first of these periods covers the time of his study with Schoenberg, and the five short movements that make up Palmström constitute a sort of parody of Pierrot Lunaire, complete with fleeting quotes from that earlier masterpiece, which give it strangely familiar contours. And the Duo inhabits the same world as Schoenberg’s Piano Suite, especially in the neo-classical echoes in its first movement minuet. After the break with Schoenberg, Eisler moved towards what he called Kampfmusik, deliberately designed to further the socialist struggle. He was to become famous for his marching songs, and more clear-cut rhythms characterise the Newspaper Cuttings, as well as a hard-edged unsentimental tonality. These characteristics really come to the fore in the Septet, based on music to accompany Charlie Chaplin’s silent film Circus, though the discipline of the Schoenberg pupil is never far away. Performances are excellent, particularly from Roswitha Trexler in the two vocal works. A black mark for not providing texts, though. Martin Cotton