Heiner Goebbels' admiration for Hanns Eisler is undoubtedly sincere, but one may still wonder what he has accomplished in Eislermaterial, his 1998 tribute to the German composer. A sensation when performed throughout Europe as a theater piece, Eislermaterial has also garnered extravagant praise in this 2003 release. In large part, the appeal is directly attributable to the Eisler/Brecht songs, which are affectingly performed by German actor Josef Bierbichler. His world-weary voice is perfectly suited to these songs of exile and loss and provides a mooring of human feeling amidst the welter of sounds proffered by Goebbels and Ensemble Modern. The montage method, as employed here, is less chaotic than in similarly assembled experiments of the 1970s -- Ludwig van, Mauricio Kagel's notorious hodgepodge, comes to mind as an extreme example -- but the trick is stale, no matter how many uses can be made of it. Through all the quotations, improvisations, and recordings of Eisler's own voice, Goebbels distances his subject instead of bringing him closer. Ultimately, Eisler ceases to be a man, but only a shadow seen through a scrim of ideology, nostalgia, and theatricality. Minimal liner notes contribute to the mysteries of this disc, and the lack of lyrics leaves non-German listeners out of the loop.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Eislermaterial, a portrait of Hanns Eisler|