Eisler: Deutsche Sinfonie

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COMPOSERS: Eisler
LABELS: NAIVE
ALBUM TITLE: Eisler
WORKS: Deutsche Sinfonie
PERFORMER: Sophie Koch, Carolin Masur (mezzo-soprano), Eike Wilm Schulte (baritone), Kurt Rydl (bass), Jean-Louis Depoil, Pierre Roux (reciters); Radio France Choir; Radio France PO/Eliahu Inbal
CATALOGUE NO: V 5031
Forced out of Germany in 1933 on account of his left-wing politics and Jewish origins, Hanns Eisler pursued a relentless campaign of attrition against Nazi ideology, expressing his contempt and scorn for the country’s new rulers in a series of hard-hitting works of which the Deutsche Sinfonie, composed between 1935 and 1948, is his magnum opus. A hybrid conflation of symphony, choral cantata and orchestral song in which the poetry of Brecht occupies centre stage, the work is conceived on a Mahlerian scale with a sequence of some 11 movements in which the composer returned to the 12-note system of his teacher Schoenberg but nonetheless managed to present his message in the most direct manner.

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This performance, recorded at a concert in Paris in November 2004, conveys the immediacy of Eisler’s invention, Eliahu Inbal enhancing the growing sense of urgency by minimising the breaks between the different movements. A good team of soloists and the excellent Radio France Choir distinguish themselves by delivering Brecht’s lines with impeccable diction and clarity. Although the 1995 Decca studio recording (now deleted) conducted by Lothar Zagrosek and featuring the charismatic Matthias Goerne benefits from a more measured approach in certain movements, the extra adrenalin of a live performance here increases the powerful impact of the work as a whole. Erik Levi