LABELS: Koch Schwann
WORKS: Das Hollywooder Liederbuch
PERFORMER: Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone), Peter Stamm (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 3-1322-2
Driven into exile by the Nazis in 1933, Hanns Eisler was forced to spend the next 15 years of his life as an itinerant composer avowedly dedicated to the overthrow of fascism. This commitment intensified after the outbreak of war when he, along with many other compatriots including Brecht and Schoenberg, sought refuge in the warmer climes of California. Although adapting effectively to his new surroundings, Eisler remained preoccupied with the political turmoil in Europe, and it was against this background that he composed the Hollywood Liederbuch – a collection of songs drawing mainly on the poems of Brecht that also embraces such classic writers as Goethe, Eichendorff and Mörike.
While the Hollywood Liederbuch is not a narrative song cycle in the manner of Schubert’s Winterreise, Eisler’s almost exclusive concentration on two central themes – the difficulty of life as an exile and the menace of Nazism – ensures that the collection attains a remarkable unity of purpose. It’s a unity that is actually enhanced by Eisler’s use of a wide range of styles, from the laconic and light-hearted to the gloomiest Schoenbergian expressionism. Served by a magnificently committed performance from Holzmair and Stamm, it emerges as one of the truly great song cycles of the twentieth century. Erik Levi