WORKS: Little Symphony; Five Orchestral Pieces; Chamber Symphony; Sturm-Suite
PERFORMER: Deutsches SO Berlin/Hans E Zimmer
CATALOGUE NO: 10 500
Despite unequivocal recognition from his teacher Schoenberg, Hanns Eisler has remained one of the most shamefully neglected of all major 20th-century composers. The public were largely unable, or unprepared, to grasp the revolutionary nature of his achievement, in particular his outright rejection of most bourgeois forms of composition. Thus the ‘abstract’ orchestral music featured on this release bears little relationship to the concert hall, having been conceived originally either in the theatre or in the film studio.
One of the most interesting aspects of these works must be Eisler’s capacity to make Schoenbergian 12-note technique sound both accessible and incredibly atmospheric. A good starting-point is the eerie Chamber Symphony of 1940, which started life as the soundtrack for a documentary about the Arctic. But the sequence of orchestral pieces, drawn from a film about China, is no less powerful in projecting the brutality of contemporary political events. Both works receive urgently committed performances here, though Mathias Husmann on a rival recording (CPO 999 071-2) manages to find even more light and shade in the scoring. Erik Levi