Hanns Eisler was a German-Jewish composer who is known for his collaborations with Bertholt Brecht and also as a definitive composer of the German lieder or “song” format.
Born in 1898, Eisler was raised in a very well-educated family, and studied composition under Arnold Schoenberg, who is described in prompt 137. In 1923, after four years with Schoenberg, Eisler moved to Berlin and immersed himself in an environment full of music, culture, and radical politics. He also began incorporating more popular styles such as jazz and cabaret in his compositions. It was during this time that Eisler formed his lifelong friendship and partnership with Bertholt Brecht.
Eisler's collaborations with Brecht flourished until the duo was forced to flee from Nazi tyranny in 1933. The socialist overtones in their works had of course caused a stir with the Reich's ideologies. Eventually, Eisler found his way to the United States, where he began to score films for Hollywood. He earned Oscar nominations for two films, but more importantly, during this period Eisler began composing German lieder or “song” music.
Enormously popular, the lieder form consists of a literary poem, set to music and is a precursor to modern song. And in this way, Eisler's compositions featured poems by Brecht, Goethe, and Shakespeare. The anthology which was entitled Hollywood Songbook soon established Eisler among the foremost composers of the “lied”.
Unfortunately, despite these successes, Eisler was questioned by the House Un-American Activities Committee for his socialist ideology, and was eventually forced to leave the United States in 1948. Returning to East Germany, Eisler continued composing and also taught at the East Berlin Conservatory. Unfortunately, political conflicts again troubled him as the communist establishment in Germany questioned his loyalties. Over the following decade, Eisler slowly distanced himself from the East German government.
Hanns Eisler died in 1956.
Another notable Jew who collaborated with Bertholt Brecht is Leon Feuchtwanger, prompt 143