Monday, 19 April 2010

Horenstein Conducts Hanns Eisler in Global Warming Movie

Anyone who enjoyed the Edgard Varèse weekend  would probably love Hanns Eisler. His music is accessible because, as a passionate socialist, he believed that music was meant to communicate with people. His usual image is that he writes simplistic agitprop. But in fact,  his music – particularly the chamber music – is exquisitely beautiful and sensitive.  Above is his Kammersymphonie op 69.  (1940)  The camerawork in this film is outstanding. If it wasn't for the horrible narrative, this would be an exquisite work of art. Technically, it can't have been easy to set up these shots. To appreciate how good it is, just watch some of the embarrassingly bad Virgil Thompson movies of the period. It's also better than the Joris Ivens movie Regen, though Eisler's music for that is the famous, and wonderful Fourteen ways to describe the Rain.  The subject is amazingly up to date, too - volcanoes and global warming!

The conductor is Jascha Horenstein, often associated with Mahler and Nielsen. Horenstein and Eisler were boyhood friends. Horenstein conducted several Eisler movies, like The Forgotten Village,  but White Flood (Kammersymphonie) is the best.

Eisler also wrote for the movies, long before he went to America. As early as 1929 he realized how movies could be expanded with sound recording. His seminally important Kuhle Wampe is on this site here (complete download). Eisler didn't lose his integrity when he found success in Hollywood. Though he won an Oscar, his music made movies into art. Eisler represents an aesthetic for popular movies different to Korngold or Miklos Rosza.  Eisler got kicked out by the US House Committee on Un-American Activities. A fewe years later,  he supplied an atmospheric score to Alain Resnais' 1955 film about the Holocaust, Night and Fog.

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