EISLER Lieder Vol 2
The second volume of MDG’s survey of Hanns Eisler’s songs covers the period from after his return from American exile until his death in 1962. There are still echoes of those righteously angry, determined marches laced with bittersweet nostalgia and self-pity familiar from the outstanding first volume (8/17), but increasingly here we have a composer stepping away from his earlier political conviction. He had an uneasy relationship with the East German authorities after his return to Berlin, and it shows.
He tries out a broader stylistic range to fit a wider spectrum of poets, and there’s a greater sense of intimacy. Brecht, who dominated part one, is still present, but here we also have Goethe and Heine, Karl Kraus and Peter Altenberg. There are some of Eisler’s Neue deutsche Volsklieder, a much-debated project that set poems by the GDR grandee Johannes R Becher. We also have a selection of his 40 settings of poems by Kurt Tucholsky, including the delightful waltz of ‘Rückkehr zur Natur’, to which Holger Falk brings the same unsentimental intelligence and clear, beguiling tone that made the first volume such a success.
There’s an exquisite Goethe fragment, a touching Heine setting (‘Verfehlte Liebe’) as well as the remarkable 50-second-long ‘Fausts Verzweiflung’ (to a text by Giacomo Leopardi). If you need any persuading of either the quality of the music or that of the performances, try the disc’s final triptych: the delicate, wistful ‘Und Endlich’ (Altenberg), a witty ‘Wienerlied’ and the languidly doleful, gently heartbreaking ‘Bleib gesund mir, Krakau’, likely Eisler’s last song.
MDG’s presentation again misses a few tricks, with no translation of the German texts and little detail in the track-listings, but those are minor gripes. I enjoyed the first volume of the series enormously, and this disc proves a more than worthy successor.