Events and news
EISLER/ SCHÖNBERG (2)
December 16th, 2014, Warsaw Philharmonic – Chamber Hall, 7 p.m.
Organisers: Austrian Culture Forum, Music Foundation „Harmonies and Noises”, Hanns und Steffy Eisler Stiftung, Internationale Hanns Eisler Gesellschaft
Co-organiser: Warsaw Philharmonic
- Sonata for violin and piano „Reisesonate” (vn, pf, 11’)
- 3. Piano Sonata (12’)
- Vierzehn Arten den Regen zu beschreiben (fl, cl, vn, vla, vc, pf, 12’)
- Präludium und Fuge über B-A-C-H (trio smyczkowe, string trio, 5’)
- Chamber Symphony op. 9 , arr. by Webern (fl, cl, vn, vc, pf; 21’)
Seweryn Zapłatyński – flute; Krystyna Sakowska – clarinet; Joanna Opalińska – piano; Anna Kwiatkowska – violin, Marzena Hodyr – viola; Mikołaj Pałosz – cello
Co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage
Hanns Eisler’s music in Poland
Documenting the history of performances of music by Eisler, both before and after the political changes in 1989, would certainly be an arduous task and the result of such search would probably not bring much result. Looking through concert programmes of most important Polish music institutions in recent 25 years (philharmonies, festivals and other major events, as documented in “Ruch Muzyczny”, Poland’s oldest and most important music magazine) I have rarely found a mention of anything by Eisler programmed. Of course, this documentation is far from being complete and it is possible that some pieces by him were performed at less salient events but the conclusion is clear: in Poland, in recent years music by Hanns Eisler has been almost totally neglected.
Searching into the more distant past would certainly be interesting. Some facts of Eisler’s links to Poland are well known: the DDR national anthem was heard for the first time when Eisler performed it on Chopin’s piano in Żelazowa Wola Museum (Chopin’s birthplace); in January, 1957, his music for Brecht’s Schweyk im zweiten Weltkrieg had its first performance in Warsaw. Some performances of music by Eisler took place at the “Warsaw Autumn”, the festival dedicated mainly to new developments in contemporary music but also documenting the musical history of past decades. The list of all works performed there since the Festival’s beginnings in 1956 includes Suite op. 1 played by musicians from the Warsaw Philharmonic (in 1958), a few songs performed in 1973 by Roswitha Trexler with piano accompaniament, and Vierzehn Arten den Regen zu beschreiben in 1987 interpreted by Musica-Viva-Ensemble from Dresden. Certainly, the differences of political system between the East and West of Europe before 1989 explains why, on the part of Polish artists, one could hardly expect much interest in performing the more politically oriented part of Eisler’s oeuvre.
The 50th anniversary of Eisler death did not attract much attention (perhaps the only performance worth mentioning was Ernste Gesänge in Wrocław with Leopoldinum Orchestra) but, at least, found some echo in Polish music and cultural magazines. This includes my three-part overview of Eisler life and work in “Ruch Muzyczny” and a text published in dwutygodnik.com, a popular online culture news magazine, and also articles by Krzysztof Rottermund (report from “Eisler-Tage” in Berlin in “Ruch Muzyczny”, and an essay in “Res Facta”, periodical published irregularly and dedicated mainly to contemporary music.
In 2014, thanks to the initiative of Fundacja Muzyczna “Harmonie i hałasy”, the music by Eisler will be heard at major concert places in the “Hanns Eisler und seine Zeit” project. Two concerts with the same programme concentrate on Eisler as Schönberg’s disciple so the works selected (Reisesonate, 3rdPiano Sonata, Präludium und Fuge über B-A-C-H, Vierzehn Arten den Regen zu beschreiben) are confronted with Schönberg’s Kammersymphonie op. 9 (in Webern’s arrangement for five instruments). As the programme of Warsaw National Philharmonic in the 2014/2015 season includes many works of the Second Viennese School, the Eisler project will be a very good opportunity to remind that the finest achievements of the “Kreis um Schönberg” do not include only works signed by the three names most often mentioned but also the masterpieces written by a composer regarded by Schönberg as comparable in talent to Berg and Webern.
The performers in the Eisler project are a group of musicians dedicated to contemporary repertoire that includes free-lanced musicians, much active at Polish and international music scenes, as well as soloists from the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra. The works by Eisler will also be included in other concerts by the ensemble, a.o. a whole Eisler concert is planned for 2015 with the works mentioned plus a selection from Hollywood-Liederbuch. For the musicians the discovery of this music, not known to them before, was a real surprise – just after the first readings of the scores the pianist decided spontaneously to devote entirely her Ph.D. thesis at the Warsaw Frederic Chopin Academy of Music to the work with piano by Eisler.
What makes the Eisler’s work still more interesting for the “Harmonien und Geräusche” concert/workshop series are the composer’s ideas on introducing the elements of avant-garde of his time into the music performed by amateurs and other not-too-much advanced singer and players. Eisler’s opinion expressed in reference to his Präludium und Fuge über B-A-C-H for string trio that this music can “jungen Musiker beweisen, dass man mit der Zwölftontechnik in einer einfachen, leichtverständlichen, logischen Weise musizieren kann“ is valid not only in reference to twelve-tone music but also points the way of applying similar approach towards more recent technical developments in music of our time.
Almost all “Harmonies and Noises” concerts are linked to education activities (in German-speaking countries referred to as “Konzertpädagogik”) that include composing music on model taken from “advanced” works, amateur performances together with professionals, film, dance, poetry etc. activities around works that will be performed by professional musicians. Up to now the concerts/workshops have included, among other, events with and about music by Schönberg, Berg, Webern, Kagel, Georg Friedrich Haas and Polish composers.
As part of “Harmonies and Noises” cycle he concert at the Warsaw Philharmonic will be accompanied by workshop introducing youngsters (13-18 years old, both from music and other schools) to the music by Eisler and to the concert programme. The workshop activities will include preparing of some easy music by Eisler (Präludium und Fuge über B-A-C-H, some piano works) by young instrumentalists, making a new film to the music of Vierzehn Arten den Regen zu beschreiben with assistance of a film director). Before the event at the Philharmonic a smaller concert will take place with presentation of the workshop results and performance of Eisler’s works by professionals.