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Hanns Eisler Political Musician Hardcover – 10 Jun 1982

2.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; English Ed edition (10 Jun. 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521240220
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521240222
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.2 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,485,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


'This first comprehensive monograph on Eisler describes the man and the composer with, as yet, unequalled precision and wealth of detail. The author's aim is to portray the conflicts and development of the last 50 years as focussed upon the historical personality of Harms Eisler. Special attention should be called not only to the amount of new information the book contains, but also to the author's concise style.' Radio Bremen

Book Description

Albrecht Betz divides Eisler's life and music into four periods, and shows how Eisler is distinguished from other great twentieth-century composers in his belief that music had a social function. Originally published in German in 1976, this English edition is illustrated with music examples and includes a complete list of works and a bibliography.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From my narrow interest and limited knowledge of music there was an overfocus on the development of Eisler's music rather than his politics and his family life
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book for the music lover 17 Mar. 2015
By Jim M. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is primarily intended for the person whose interest in Hanns Eisler is primarily musical. The book goes into great depth about the nature of his style and his signature trademarks. Meanwhile the historical Hanns Eisler is discussed almost as an afterthought. It's an interesting book, but if your interest is primarily historical, this isn't the best source.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars comprehensive,analytic history of a 20th Century master 14 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Although written in the mid-Eighties this is still an exhaustive,detailed account of a Twentieth Century master,the first in English. Eisler was a Marxist and wrote music as well, two ultimately unique facets of a creator today. No one forsaw the emergence of culture as a last bastion of internal resistence to the state of the world. This is why Betz's book here is so important, for it gives both the analytic and the historical. Betz traces Eisler's entire career. Beginning with the early days as a Schoenberg student. Eisler to my mind anyway had more of a realist vision of the state of Germany,than his counterparts Weill,Berg or Webern in the Twenties,which is why he adopted his political convictions. His early music adopts a Schoenbergian free atonality but he finds his own voice there. Compelling, neurotic and momentum bound are the main features of this early music,He wrote a powerful "First Piano Sonata" from this period and began dabbling in music as social discourse He utilized newspaper clippings, or "Zeitungsausschnitte" the title of the work for piano and voice. Betz extends his analysis to Eisler's meeting in Berlin with Brecht, one of the most prolific and profound collaboration of this century. Betz develops a concept of Eisler's modernity and the unique creative challenges he faced in uniting text with music. Eisler, who wrote over 500 songs during his life was like the Schubert of our age,almost no text was beyond a run through with piano accompaniment. The thrust of this modernity was Eisler's penchant for a striking image, a compact,terse lyrical musical means. Often his songs are quite short which points to this modernity in fast development and quick,concentrated musical motives, where single exposed tones can trigger an image of violence or terror. There is also here an elaborate discussion of Eisler's last major work the opera "Johann Faustus". When Eisler was thrown out of the United States he returned to the DDR, East Germany, and was wholly ignored by the apparatcik authorities,despite the fact that he wrote their National Anthem. This opera was reason enough for this institutional neglect, with veiled barbs on the seductive sides of tyranny. He used the "Peasant Wars" in Germany in the early 1500's as a remote yet very immediate reality for this opera. Betz also includes a comprehensive list of all of Eisler's works including reference to numerous filmscores.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Books is overpriced and inaccurate 2 Sept. 2007
By Prometheus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
You would expect that for a book that cost as much as this one you would get an accurate history of Hanns Eisler, his life, his family, and his troubles with his family, but that is not the case. The book spends too much time mitigating Hanns and his brother Gerhardt controversial ties with the Communist party while marginalizing his sister, Ruth Fischer, their chief accuser. Sorry to say that this books, although interesting, is afraid to go beyond the surface and is a whitewash of this controversial, but brilliant musician. By the time you finish it, you will would think that his sister was crazy and that Hanns and his brother were just plain ordinary folks hounded out of America by that mean old committee and Richard Nixon. Go ahead and read it. Read his much marginalized, but brilliant sister's book too. By the time, you are finished both, you just might break out into a chorus of Night and Day instead of the Eisler composition, The Comintern March. Eisler's life, relationship with his familyand politics were much more interesting and complicated than you will find in the pages of this overpriced whitewash. I doubt, however, a true account of the man will ever see the light of day.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazingly good book on Eisler, whose music should be much more widely heard 3 April 2015
By Autonomeus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I read this book several years ago, and it was so good, so compelling, that as soon as I was finished I started it again -- I read it twice in practically one sitting.

It was originally published in German in 1976, and the English translation was published in 1982. The text itself is 246 pages long, and with Notes, a List of Works, a Chronology, and Index, the book is 326 pages long. Included are several black-and-white photos which give a valuable perspective on the young Eisler, who was a slim and dashing figure quite unlike the rotund older man most often seen from his last years in the DDR (East Germany).

Betz does not include any information about Eisler's personal life. The title is accurate: "Hanns Eisler: Political Musician." The book is a detailed, highly illuminating history of Eisler the composer, and it includes enough of his political activism to inform the development of his music.

There are four sections: 1) Early years in Vienna, 2) Berlin -- music and politics, 3) Fifteen years of exile, and 4) The final decade.

The first section focuses, of course, on Eisler as student of Schoenberg from 1919-1923. This was the time period when Schoenberg was developing his 12-tone system. Eisler was to utilize it for the rest of his composing career, but certainly not in a rigid or dogmatic way. Eisler broke with Schoenberg as he became engaged in working class politics after his move to Berlin.

Eisler's prime years were the Twenties in Berlin, including the beginning of his collaboration with Bertolt Brecht, which would last until Brecht's death in 1956. I found Betz to be at his best here, giving us an understanding of how Eisler saw the relationship of his art with his politics. Three great works by Brecht and Eisler are treated in depth: "Die Massnahme," "Kuhle Wampe," and "Die Mutter."

There are at least two revelations in the section on Eisler's exile in America. The first is how energetic he was politically, travelling constantly, giving talks and organizing opposition to the Nazi regime. The second is how energetic he was musically, producing a large quantity of music for films, some formally innovative, as well as the lieder with Brecht popularly known as the "Hollywood Songbook," though this is not their official name.

Finally the last section covers his years in the DDR after the McCarthy anti-communist witch hunt claimed Eisler as its first victim. He spent time in Vienna, but most of it in Berlin, the capital of East Germany. He could have gone to West Germany, but as Betz says: "...it seemed to him that [the DDR] offered a guarantee that the stamping out of fascism was to be taken seriously. In the second place, he hoped that the establishment of socialism would be associated with a new musical culture."

That latter hope proved to be elusive. Eisler was treated with the utmost respect by the authorities, but his music was another story. It was considered too radical, not in step with the socialist realism promoted by the official doctrine. Eisler had less respect for the DDR government. But Eisler and Brecht spent their final years in the DDR, and they are buried near one another in the Dorotheenstadt cemetery in central Berlin next to the Brecht House, near the Friedrichstrasse Bahnhof and Brecht's Berliner Ensemble theater.

I enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone interested in Eisler, in the Second Vienna School, in Brecht, or in the working class movement of the 20th century.

(verified library loan)
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