Eisler: Lieder and cantatas; Two Sonatas for Viola, Clarinet and Bass Clarinet

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COMPOSERS: Eisler
LABELS: Berlin Classics
WORKS: Lieder and cantatas; Two Sonatas for Viola, Clarinet and Bass Clarinet
PERFORMER: Irmgard Arnold (soprano), Hanns Eisler, Andre Asriel, Volker Rohde, Kurt Scharmacher (piano), Gerald Schleicher, Ewald Koch (clarinet), Georg Laube (bass clarinet), Peter Seydel (viola), Hartmut Friedrich (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 0093372 BC ADD mono
Although Hanns Eisler was an extremely prolific songwriter, he had great difficulty in finding artists who had, in his own words, sufficient ‘lightness, intelligence, friendliness, strictness, grace and hardness, fun and seriousness’ to interpret his work most effectively. One person who apparently met these exacting standards was the soprano Irmgard Arnold, who began to collaborate with Eisler during the mid-Fifties, when these recordings were made.

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Listening to the 41 songs, intelligently presented here in chronological order of composition, from the early Trakl setting of 1920 to the Brecht poems of 1956, it’s self-evident that Arnold was a charismatic performer. At the same time, her intonation can be wayward to say the least. Her first entry in the marvellous ‘Lied von der belebenden Wirkung des Geldes’ from Brecht’s play Die Rundköpfe und die Spitzköpfe is painfully off-key, and is completely upstaged later on in the disc in a treasurable if croaky rendition of the same song from the composer himself. Nonetheless, this is a relatively minor flaw in a release that has obvious historical interest, especially in Eisler’s centenary year. Newcomers to the composer, however, should be warned that the sound is rather murky, and that despite extensive and informative booklet notes, Berlin Classics once again fails to provide either texts or translations of the poems. Erik Levi