Hanns Eislers time in Berlin from 1925 to 1933
Berlin 1926. Arnold Schönberg moves to the city to hold a Master Class for composition at the Academy. He stays at a hotel on Steinplatz in Charlottenburg. Hans Eisler, his pupil, had already moved to Berlin in 1925. He lives in a boarding house only a few hundred meters from Schönberg in the Grolmannstrasse 58.
The admired, highly revered teacher has only just arrived in Berlin when they have an argument which is documented in correspondence between the two. They stop speaking to each other, writing injurious letters instead, despite their spatial proximity. "Modern music bores me", Eisler writes. "I want nothing to do with modernism." And: "I also do not understand the twelve-tone system or twelve-tone music." Schönberg talks of betrayal. The contact between teacher and pupil breaks off for several years. What had happened?
Hanns Eisler had started to turn away from New Music circles which he described as a "vacuum jar" and was searching for another, more popular form of music, more meaningful in the social environment. Unemployment was high in Berlin, fascism on the rise. At the same time, the city was a stronghold of the roaring twenties, and amusement was the answer to pressing social problems. Eisler associates himself with socialist groups and tries to write music which a wide audience can understand, without deferring to popular taste, to the music of business interests, of capitalism.
Our film about Hans Eisler, made to commemorate his 100th birthday, concentrates on these years, a phase which can only be understood against the background of the historical situation. We visit places Eisler frequented (and some of them Schönberg, too), interview survivors, and use documentary photos to revive Berlin of the years 1925-1933 (primarily March 1926), the time when Eisler developed the style of music for which he is still famous today (even the pop singer Sting has interpreted Eisler songs).
Other aspects of his later life and work, the years spent in exile, his film music, his return to East Germany and work there, and his significance for later generations of composers are taken into account, but are not the central concern of this film.
Musical elements are performed by students of the Berlin Music Academy which bears his name, above all excerpts from the second Piano Concerto, the ”Palmströmdrama“, the Song Cycle "Zeitungsausschnitte" up to "Lied der Arbeitslosen" and finally the ”Reisesonate“.