Eisler: Die Mutter; Four Pieces, Op. 13; Woodburry Liederbüchlein; Litanei vom Hauch

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COMPOSERS: Eisler
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Die Mutter; Four Pieces, Op. 13; Woodburry Liederbüchlein; Litanei vom Hauch
PERFORMER: Dorothee Labusch (mezzo), Furio Zanasi (baritone), Ulrike Klausen, Jörg Krause, Akim Schwesig (speaker), Emanuele Arciuli, Francesco Libetta (piano); Swiss-Italian Radio Chorus/Diego Fasolis
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9820
Composed during the early Thirties, Die Mutter was the second of Eisler’s major collaborations with Brecht and represents one of his finest achievements in the field of ‘applied music’. Its subject matter was adapted by the great dramatist from Maxim Gorky’s novel of the same name, and concerns the political education of an illiterate working-class woman who eventually joins her son in revolutionary activity against the Tsarist regime in 1905. Originally conceived for performance in the theatre, the work was later fashioned for the concert hall, Eisler recasting the instrumental accompaniment for two pianos, and it is this version which is featured here.

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While there is little doubt that the original score (recorded with such pungency by the legendary Berliner Ensemble on Berlin Classics) packs a mightier punch, the present performance conveys much of the immediacy of Eisler’s musical argument, and benefits from some expressive singing particularly from mezzo-soprano Dorothee Labusch. The Swiss Radio Chorus provides sturdy support, and is even more impressive in the wonderfully varied textures of the Woodburry Liederbüchlein. In the rest of the disc, however, it is outclassed by the Leipzig Radio Choir on Berlin Classics which injects far greater theatrical fervour into the provocative Four Pieces, Op. 13, and the trenchant setting of Brecht’s Litanei vom Hauch. Erik Levi