Press Room

ASO presents “Music of the Other Germany” on Jan 25

Botstein goes where other conductors fear to tread.”
–New Yorker

For its first concert
of the New Year, and the third in its Lincoln Center season, the American
Symphony Orchestra presents “Music of
the Other Germany”
on Sunday, January 25, 2009, featuring works by
some of the best-known composers of the former German Democratic Republic.  Paul Dessau, Hanns Eisler, Siegfried
Matthus, Rudolf Wagner-Régeny, and Udo Zimmermann all composed music in the
great German tradition in a new environment that was a hotbed of artistic
experimentation despite official censorship and oppression.

Four of the six compositions on the program are receiving their United States
premieres, and one is being given its New York premiere.  Americans may recognize the sixth,
Eisler’s national anthem for the “Other Germany”, because it used to be heard
so frequently on broadcasts of the Olympic Games.  That national anthem vanished from the airwaves and
everywhere else when the German Democratic Republic died with the Berlin wall,
sending Europe’s Iron Curtain to the scrapheap.

Botstein, music director of the ASO, writes in a program note:

purpose of this concert is to inspire a tolerant and candid engagement with our
past.  East German life and culture
before 1989 are easily susceptible to ridicule.  They are undeserving of nostalgic sentiments.  The suppression of freedom, the
violence of the state, and the corruption and hypocrisy should not inspire
admiration.  But at the same time,
through music, more than one generation of talented composers in East Germany
sought, despite tyranny and the pressure to conform, the redemption of human
possibility through music.  They employed
tradition and innovation in unique and memorable ways.  We acknowledge without difficulty that
East Germany provided many distinguished contributions to performance practice,
from the era of the theater director Walter Felsenstein to that of Kurt Masur.  There is a parallel richness to be
discovered in the work of East German composers as well, those who lived in the
German Democratic Republic between 1945 and 1989.”

first piece on the program, by Hanns Eisler,
became the national anthem of the German
Democratic Republic
(“Arisen from the Ruins”).  Eisler was born in Leipzig, moved to Vienna with his family
as a child, and was wounded during World War I when fighting on the Austrian
side.  He studied with Schoenberg
in Vienna from 1919-23 and moved to Berlin in 1925.  As a Communist Jew, he was double-anathema to the Nazis, and
forced to flee Germany.  He visited
the Soviet Union, several European countries, and the United States, teaching
at New York’s New School before leaving for Mexico and then Hollywood, where he
taught at USC and became a successful film-score composer.  In California he was reunited with Bertolt
Brecht, his friend since 1930 and a favorite collaborator in the pre-Nazi era
as well as later.  But, as a
committed Communist, and despite support from such public figures as Charlie
Chaplin and Aaron Copland, Eisler was extradited and re-settled in East
Berlin.  He regretted being
deported from a country he had grown to love, especially after the bitterness
of being driven from his homeland only 15 years earlier.  The second Eisler work – his 1949 Goethe
for soprano and orchestra, based on Faust, Part 2 – receives its US premiere with this ASO concert.

Botstein has said that “Eisler and Weill … sought to write a new kind of
music that bridged the concert hall, the cabaret, and the street.”  Among Eisler’s music was much collaborative
work, including three plays, with Brecht, whose death in 1956 is lamented in Paul Dessau’s In memoriam (US premiere).  Dessau was born in Hamburg in 1894, the
son of a Rabbi.  After a
conventional music education and training, he began to achieve fame by
composing music for movie theaters in the 1920s.  Moving to Paris in 1933, he received some political
education before re-locating to the US in 1942, where he met Brecht and began a
long collaboration.  He, too, moved
to Hollywood to be closer to the playwright, and there composed the music for Mother Courage.  He returned to Germany in 1948,
settling in east Berlin (not yet “East” Berlin).  Dessau’s In memoriam
Bertolt Brecht
is purely orchestral; perhaps he felt only music could
express his emotions at the death of a great friend, and formidable fellow
artist and dedicated Communist.

compositions demonstrating East Germany’s post-Nazi idealism as late as 1977
are by the youngest composers represented on the program, both still active in
“reunited” Germany.  Udo Zimmermann’s “Lament” – a memorial to Federico García Lorca–mourns Spain’s great
Communist poet murdered by Fascists during the Spanish Civil War, and
commemorates the 40th anniversary of his death.  Zimmermann achieved prominence in West
Germany as well, and his 1967 opera Die
weisse Rose
, memorializing the only significant – if unsuccessful – Nazi
era resistance movement, contributed to his success in the West.  The all but forgotten Rudolf Wagner-Régeny is represented by
his 1951 work Mythological Figures, another of the US premieres on the
program.  Born in a German-settled
area of Transylvania, Wagner-Régeny studied in Leipzig and at Berlin’s
Musikhochschule, under Franz Schreker among others, becoming a German citizen
in 1930.  He was a close friend of
prominent Nazi Baldur von Shirach and although eventually he got on the wrong
side of Heinrich Goebbels, by then two of his works had already been premiered
by Karl Böhm and Herbert von Karajan. 
After World War II, Wagner-Régeny chose to live in East Germany and
became another of Bertolt Brecht’s collaborators.  He was briefly dean of the music conservatory of the
Hanseatic city of Rostock, which now bears his name.

most famous pupil is Siegfried Matthus, born in 1934 in what was then
East Prussia.  In 1944, fleeing the
advancing Russian army, the composer’s family fatefully stopped just one day’s
journey short of what would become the West German border.  During his studies he would cross paths
with Wagner-Régeny and Eisler, although he failed to appreciate the latter, due
to “too many complexes when I was a young man.”  Responso, a 25-minute work described as a “concerto for
orchestra,” received its premiere in Dresden in October 1977.


 “Music of the Other Germany”
Leon Botstein conducts the
American Symphony Orchestra
Marjorie Owens, soprano
Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 3 pm, Avery Fisher Hall

 Hanns Eisler (1898-1962): Auferstanden
aus Ruinen
, Hymne der DDR (1949)
Paul Dessau (1894-1979): In memoriam
Bertolt Brecht
(1957) – US premiere
Rudolf Wagner-Régeny (1903-69): Mythological
(1951) – US premiere
Udo Zimmermann (born 1943): Sinfonia come
un grande lamento
, in memory of F. García Lorca (1977) – US premiere
Hanns Eisler: Goethe Rhapsody (1949)
– US premiere
Siegfried Matthus (b. 1934): Responso
(1977) – NY premiere

 Tickets start at just $28; call 212.868.9ASO (9276).  Group discounts available.  All ticket sales are final.

Enjoy an
illuminating pre-concert talk with American Symphony Orchestra Music Director,
Leon Botstein, at 1:45 pm in the auditorium of Avery Fisher Hall.

more about this concert and the rest of the season at or from (212) 868-9ASO (9276).

 Details of the ASO’s additional
2008-09 concerts at Lincoln Center follow.

February 20, 2009, 8 pm
“PERSECUTION AND HOPE: Masterworks of Conscience

Luigi Dallapiccola (1904-75):
   Volo di notte (Night Flight, 1939)
   Il prigioniero (The Prisoner, 1948)

George Whitefield Chadwick (1854-1931): Rip Van Winkle Overture (1879)
William Grant Still (1895-1978): Darker
William Grant Still: Africa (1930)
Edgard Varèse (1883-1965): Offrandes
William Grant Still: Symphony No. 2 (1937)

 Sunday, May 31,
2009, 3 pm

“COMPOSING A NATION: Israel’s Musical
Erich-Walter Sternberg (1891-1974): The
Twelve Tribes of Israel
(1938) – US premiere
Mordecai Seter (1916-94): Midnight Vigil,
Op. 39a (1958) – US premiere
Josef Tal (1910-2008): Symphony No. 2 (1960) – US premiere
Ödön Partos (1907-77): Ein gev,
Symphonic Fantasy (1952) – US premiere
Paul Ben-Haim (1907-84): Symphony No. 2 (1948) – US premiere


The American Symphony Orchestra’s 2008-09 season and programs are made
possible, in part, through support from National Endowment for the Arts, New
York State Council on the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs,
and Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer.  Major support is
provided by The Winston Foundation, The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and The
Faith Golding Foundation.  Additional support is provided by, JP Morgan
Chase, The Fan Fox and Leslie Samuels Foundation, Con Edison, HBO, The Bay and
Paul Foundation, Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, Carroll, Guido, &
Groffman, LLP, DuBose & Dorothy Heyward Memorial Trust, The Edith C. Blum
Foundation, and Solon E. Summerfield Foundation.

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