Archive for April, 2012

Tomorrow we will have May Day. To celebrate this years international workers day we present a complete recording of play “The Mother” (German: “Die Mutter”) by Bertolt Brecht.
It is based on Maxim Gorky´s 1906 novel of the same name. Gorky´s novel deals with the revolutionary struggle of the young worker Pawel and his comrades. Gorki writes about the growing proletarian consciousness of his protagonists.
It was written in collaboration with Hanns Eisler, Slatan Dudow and Günter Weisenborn from 1930–31 in prose dialogue with unrhymed irregular free verse and ten initial songs in its score, with three more added later.

The Mother is Brecht’s most elaborate use of his radically experimental “Lehrstücke”, or ‘learning plays,’ which he describes as “a piece of anti-metaphysical, materialistic, non-Aristotelian drama.” The play suggests that to become a good mother involves more than just complaining about the price of soup; rather, one must struggle against it, not only for her and her family’s sake, but for the sake of all working families. The title character, the mother Pelagea Vlassova, journeys through the play’s fourteen scenes, the death of her son, and her own impending illness, fighting illiteracy while constantly filled with good humor and wily activism. The moment in October 1917 when she becomes free to carry and raise her own Red Flag on the eve of the czar’s overthrow proves momentous. The play has garnered continued recognition for its forensic, witty and, some would say, humanist critique of capitalism seen through the experiences of those obliged, as Brecht saw it, to live beneath that system’s crushing weight.

This is a complete recording of Bertolt Brecht´s stage play “Die Mutter”. Therese Giehse plays the leading role – besides members of the Schaubühne am Halleschen Ufer like Heinrich Giskes, Bruno Ganz, Jutta Lampe, Christof Nel and Otto Sander – under the direction of Peter Stein. The music is Hanns Eisler´s Berliner Ensemble (1951) stage version, conducted by Peter Fischer.

“This small tough person does not need a monument. It already stands,” wrote the critic Friedrich Luft after her death in 1970. Grethe Weiser was a highly talented comedian, whose greatest genius was her verbal eloquence. With her sassy, offhanded quick-wittedness, she was able to elicit thunderous applause from her audiences. Her film and stage partners praised her great discipline in the craft and her helpfulness in general. It was also very important to her personally not to steal anyone else’s show.

Mathilde Ella Dorothea Nowka, the daughter of well-to-do entrepreneurs, was born in Hanover and raised in Dresden, where she attended secondary school for young ladies. At the age of eighteen she engaged in a hunger strike to win her parents’ permission to marry the Jewish-Austrian sugar producer Josef Weiser. He was a wealthy man and was able to rent a mansion for his wife in Dresden, where she gave birth to their son Günther in 1922. In the course of the depression, however, Josef lost his fortune. He then tried to establish a new livelihood in Berlin through various projects, among them the management of the Cabaret Charlott, where Grethe rehearsed for her first performances.

By the time her marriage had deteriorated on account of Josef’s many affairs, she had already found her calling as an actress and cabaret artist. From 1929 on, she played important supporting roles in movies, portraying cooks and other household personnel, and dazzled her fans with her cunningly sharp tongue. She experienced her greatest movie successes in 1937 with her roles in Die Göttliche Jette (The Divine Jette) and Mädchen für Alles (Maid-of-All-Work).

During the second world war, Weiser was not only commissioned for theater duty at the front, but also acted in over thirty movies. For more favorable career opportunities membership in the Theater Guild of the German Reich was required, and for this Grethe Weiser would have had to join the Nazi Party (NSDAP), which, in turn, would have meant renouncing her husband and child. She refused to do this, however, sent her son to boarding school in England (Josef had already fled to the Netherlands), and was miraculously left in peace. Her comedy, evidently, was indispensable in time of war.

In 1948 Grethe met Ida Ehre, proprietor of Hamburg’s Studio Theatre Kammerspiele, who offered her the leading role in Das Kuckucksei (The Cuckoo’s Egg). The premiere brought Weiser tremendous ovations, and she frequently went on tour with this piece. Cooperation with Ida Ehre on Hauptmann’s Der Biberpelz (The Beaver Coat)where she played Mother Wolffen, deepened their contact, which eventually developed into a close friendship.

grethe weiser greteIn the movies made during the era of the “economic miracle” following the war, Grethe embodied the type of the Berlinwoman, known for her big heart and even bigger mouth, who was nobody’s fool and nobody’s victim. In 1968 she was given the Medal of Honour of the Federal Republic of Germany. An Inter-City Express train on the route between Frankfurt and Hanover has also been named after her, as well as a 100-Pfennig postage stamp from the permanent series “Women in German History”, which was dedicated to her in the year 2000.

When Weiser was killed in a car accident together with her second husband, the movie producer Hermann Schwerin, Ida Ehre wrote in an obituary, “You were one of steadfast loyalty. Whomever you locked in your heart was anchored there firmly … you will always be within me, dear Grethe …”.

Grethe Weiser – Perlen der Kleinkunst – 20 rare Chansons
(192 kbps, front cover included)

Sonja Kehler was born on February 2, 1933 in Haldersleben near Magdeburg. After graduating from the College of Drama in Leipzig she was given engagements at several theatres in the GDR, before launching on an international career as a freelance singer and actress. Sonja Kehler made a name for herself above all as a performer of works by Bertolt Brecht, whether as Shen Te in “The Good Person of Sezuan”, as Jenny in “The Threepenny Opera” or as Grusche in “The Caucasian Chalk Circle”.

Nevertheless in the 80s she was barely alowed to perform in the GDR. The repression started when one of her musicians didn´t come back to GDR after a concert “in the West”. Sonja Kehler told about that time in an interview: “I couldn´t get work in the GDR, no concerts, no recordings, but I was allowed to tour abroad again because it brought in foreign currency. I had of course done a lot in the GDR before that: concerts, theatre, shows, television work. But at a particular point that all stopped and I was only allowed to perform abroad. At that time Bernd Wefelmeyer was already my accompanist. In 1978 I made a very accomplished Brecht recording with hi but it was never released in the GDR, although WERGO did market it in the West”.
The album “Brecht-Portrait” was produced by VEB Deutsche Schallplatten Berlin (GDR), but only released in West Germany on the WERGO label.


Side A:
01 Von der Freundlichkeit der Welt
02 Ballade vom angenehmen Leben
03 Die Seeräuber – Jenny
04 Das Lied von der Unzulänglichkeit menschlichen Strebens
05 Ballade zum § 218
06 Hier ruht die Jungfrau
07 Lied eines Freudenmädchens
08 Das Vielleicht – Lied
09 Kriegslied / Die Mutter liegt im Krankenhaus
10 Legende bom toten Soldaten

Side B:
01 Bilbao Song
02 Das Lied von der harten Nuß
03 Das Was – Man – Hat – Hat – Man – Lied
04 Das Lied vom achten Elefanten
05 Ballade vom Knopfwurf
06 Bei den Hochgestellten
07 Lied vom Kelch
08 Ballade vom Wasserrad

Sonja Kehler – Brecht-Portrait (1978)
(192 kbps, front cover included)

“Sonja Kehler grew up in the German Democratic Republic and started her career as an actress who also landed roles that required singing. She played Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” for a long time and was also selected for Brecht roles. Towards the end of the 1960s she gradually left the theatre to concentrate on a career as a solo artist – also internationally. Hers was a typical Brechtian voice: flexible, unsentimental, excellent enunciation, a bit distanced in approach. The ageing Lotte Lenya’s ‘speak-song’ had become a kind of norm and Sonja Kehler belongs to that school, as does the roughly ten years older Gisela May. This disc with recordings from the 1970s was issued to coincide with her 75th birthday in 2008 as a tribute to a great artist.

Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill are for many, I suppose, the inseparable radar couple in German music theatre. In fact their collaboration was short-lived. On the other hand, Dessau and especially Eisler worked with Brecht for many years. Eisler chalked up nearly thirty years collaboration with Brecht. There is, no doubt, a kinship between the three composers: in the straightforward approach, a kind of aggression, the rhythmic patterns, the often blunt ends, the adaptation of elements from jazz and popular music. But whereas Weill has a melodic directness that he was to hone and develop when he moved to the USA to fit into mainstream popular songs and Broadway musical theatre, both Eisler and Dessau are bolder, more experimental, drawing on sometimes harsh harmonies and melodic material based on speech. In particular Paul Dessau was quite avant-garde. The differences can generally be heard both in the theatre songs and the Lieder, where Eisler is sometimes ingratiatingly catchy, Dessau is more evasive. What they have in common is the gift to let Brecht’s lyrics speak – the melodies are not ends in themselves. They fit Brecht’s aesthetics: the epic theatre, the Verfremdungseffekt. This doesn’t imply that there is any kind of monotony. Within the concept there is variation aplenty. Among my personal favourites I would single out the melodically inventive songs from Herr Puntila … (Eisler) and Dessau’s Lied der Mutter Courage, where we hear soldiers marching relentlessly.

The Lieder, many of them quite short, are charmingly jazzy (tr. 17), catchy Schlager-melodies (tr. 18) or intimate ballads (tr. 24). Not all of them are Brecht settings. Dessau’s Tierverse are amusing miniatures and each of them starts like a fairy-tale: Es war einmal … One of them, Das Pferd (The Horse), was composed specifically for Sonja Kehler.

The accompaniments are varied, spanning from simple guitar-chords to full ensemble with winds and percussion, often with witty or illustrative instrumental solos. The arrangements are by Manfred Grabs and Helge Jung. The sound quality is excellent with wide stereo spread. The booklet has an interview with Sonja Kehler but unfortunately no sung texts. The message is central and even though Kehler’s articulation is spotless non-German natives at least would have been greatly helped by the printed words.

Whether this is a disc with universal appeal is debatable. The texts are political, even controversially so to some listeners, but provided one accepts Brecht’s point of view it is hard to imagine a better advocate for these songs than Sonja Kehler. A timely issue. Many Happy Returns of the Day! “

Göran Forsling 


Hanns EISLER (1898–1962): Die Rundköpfe und die Spitzköpfe

1. Das Lied von der Tünche [1:45]

2. Die Ballade vom Knopfwurf [4:44]

3. Das “Vielleicht”-Lied [1:53]

Paul DESSAU (1894–1979): Der Gute Mensch von Sezuan

4. Das Lied vom achten Elefanten [2:44]

5. Arioso der Shen Te [1:42]

Hanns EISLER: Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti

6. Das Puntila-Lied [4:23]

7. Ala die Pflaumen reif geworden [1:19]

8. Die Gräfin und der Förster [1:44]

Paul DESSAU: Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder

9. Lied der Mutter Courage [5:58]

10. Lied von der Bleibe [1:50]

11. Lied vom Fraternisieren [3:35]

Der Kaukasische Kreidekreis

12. Lied der Grusche (Vier Generäle) [1:35]

13. Liebster mein [1:26]

Hanns EISLER: Die Tage der Commune

14. Margot ging auf den Markt heut früh [1:21]

15. Resolution [3:27]

16. Ostern ist Bal sur Seine [1:03]

Lieder von Hanns Eisler / Lieder von Paul Dessau


17. Considering everything [2:34]

18. Der Butterräuber von Halberstadt [2:24]


19. Das Zukunftslied [3:05]

20. Der Pflaumenbaum [1:19]

21. Vom Kind, das sich nicht waschen wollte [1:28]


22. Willem hat ein Schloss [0:54]

23. Lied vom kriegrischen Lehrer [0:45]


24. Bitten der Kinder [1:06]

25. Kriegslied [3:12]

26. Sieben Rosen hat der Strauch [0:47]

27. Als ich nachher von dir ging [0:56]


28. Hast am Feldrain geblüht, lieber Birnbaum [1:07]


Tierverse (Brecht)

29. Das Schwein [0:22]

30. Die Ziege [0:51]

31. Der Hund [0:33]

32. Der Elefant [0:33]

33. Das Kamel [0:26]

34. Die Kellerassel [1:06]

35. Der Rabe [0:44]

36. Das Pferd [0:39]

Artists: Sonja Kehler (vocals), Helge Jung with instrumental ensemble (1, 5-9, 11-19, 22-24, 28-36); Bernd Wefelmeyer with instrumental ensemble (2-4); Werner Pauli (guitar) (10, 20, 21, 26, 27); Ernst Rentner (accordion) (12, 14-16, 28); Gundula Sonsalla (guitar) (6-8); Gerald Schleicher (clarinet)(6-8); Bernd Wefelmeyer (piano) (25)

rec. 1972 (26, 27); 1973 (1, 6-8, 14-18, 22, 23, 28); 1976 (5, 9-13, 19-21, 24, 29-36); 1978 (25, 2-4)

Sonja Kehler singt Brecht, Eisler, Dessau (Recordings 1972 – 1978)
(192 kbps, front cover included)

“Singe-Bewegung” and “Oktoberklub” in East Germany, part 5.

The GDR viewed the whole democratic and revolutionary song tradition as its own cultural inheritance. The “Kampflieder” of Brecht and Eisler and songs from the Spanish Civil War were learned in scholls and in the army. In the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s these songs appeared in song books of the Free German Youth (FDJ) and the Young Pioneers alongside German folk songs and new, so called “Aufbaulieder” written specially for the GDR youth. Songs such as “Fleißig, nur fleißig” and Johannes R. Becher´s “Nationalhymne der DDR” encouraged diligence and a joyful common purpose in the building of the new socialist state. In general, however, the political song genre did not prosper in the 1950s. It was a serious, sacred tradition, not to be tampered with, and the writing of new songs critical of the GDR was unthinkable. On the other hand, as Lutz Kirchenwitz notes, for the young poets of the 1950s, who were inspired by the creation of a socialist state on German soil, the political crises caused by the uprising of 17th June 1953 and the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 created an atmosphere of disillusionment that was detrimental for the writing of new political poetry and song.

By the early 1960s, a completely new kind of protest song culture was being encountered. The American civil rights song was filtering over the air waves via West Germany through to East Berlin. The building of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 had given the GDR government a sufficient sense of security to relax the severity of censorship in the arts. During this political thaw, which lasted roughly up until the infamous 11th Plenum of the SED in December 1965, an independent folk music scene emerged in East Berlin, based on the informal Hootenanny model made famous by American folk singers such as Pete Seeger.
The Berlin Hootenannies were guided by the resident banjo-playing Canadian Perry Friedman. With his uninhibited performance style, Friedman made German folk songs attractive for the youth and freed the workers´ songs of their sacred aura.

The following members of the “Oktoberklub” contributed to the album “Aha”, released in 1973 on the Amiga label: Peter Andert, Reinhold Andert, Volkmar Andrä, Helmut Baumert, Elke Bitterhof, Michael Brandt, Jürgen Briese, Reinhard Buchholz, Erwin Burkert, Rainer-Henri Butschke, Rene Büttner, Bernd Engel, Jörn Fechner, Sabine Fechner, Jürgen Feige, Carsten Görner, Reinhard Heinemann, Michael Höft, Gerhard Kegel, Lutz Kirchenwitz, Ursula Kleinert, Fred Krüger, Stefanie Lenke, Uwe Leo, Reinhard Mann, Waltraud Monzer, Rainer Neumann, Brigitte Normann, Karl Heinz Ocasek, Bert Ostberg, Katja Ostberg, Gina Pietsch, Peter Porsch, Gudrun Sonnenburg, Horst-Fred Stolle, Andreas Turowski, Ilona Wagemann and Siegfried Wein.

Oktoberklub – Aha (Amiga, 1973)
(160 kbps, front & back cover inclued)

To be continued…

“Singe-Bewegung” and “Oktoberklub” in East Germany, part 4.

East Germans born between 1945 and 1960, who came into their teens between the erection of the Berlin wall and the mid-’70s, were known as the “integrated generation”, for they identified to a fairly high degree with the German Democratic Republic.

In the main, they regarded socialism as a matter of course, they undertook the “long march through the institutions” and pinned their hopes on a “changing party elite” (as it was called in the West). Some of the politically and culturally active young people sympathized strongly with the anti-capitalist, emancipatory protest of the left wing in the West and the international culture of protest music. This enthusiasm certainly had quixotic qualities, and the crisis-ridden trend of state socialism increasingly undermined its credibility.

But when Stefan Wolle in his book Die heile Welt der Diktatur (The Perfect World of Dictatorship) characterizes the Singing Movement and the Political Songfest as manifestations of an “officially tolerated ersatz protest culture” that availed itself of the “poses and accessories of Western protest movements”, he is oversimplifying the many different facets of this phenomenon.

“Unterm Arm die Gitarre” was the name of a Radio DDR programm produced in cooperation with the Oktober-Klub Berlin.  The album with the same name celebrates the first two years of the Oktober-Klub with a recording of a concert at the Kongresshalle Berlin, February 25s, 1968.

Oktober-Klub Berlin – Unterm Arm die Gitarre (Amiga, 1968)
(128 kbps, front & back cover included)

To be continued…

“Singe-Bewegung” and “Oktoberklub” in East Germany, part 3.

Political song in the GDR did not, contrary to what is often assumed, start and finsih with Wolf Biermann. “Singegruppen” and “Liedermacher” were to play a significant cultural role in society from the early 1960s right up until the “Wende”. On the one hand, the political song was a proudly coveted and officially nurtured “Erbe”, but on the other, it was viewed with suspicion because of its potential as a means of subversion.

GDR singers, treading a precarious tightrope between prohibition and tolerance, enjoyed an elevated status as bearers of unofficial tidings. Concert halls, student clubs, or informal gatherings were invariably packed, and editions of the records released on the state record label “Amiga” were snapped up immediately.

There was a metamorphosis from the loyal teenagers of the “FDJ-Singeklubs” in the 1960s and 1970s into the critically-minded “Liedermacher” of the 1980s. The beginning of this story lie in the “Hootenanny-Klub”. Formed in 1966, it incorporated many of the various influences which had been seeping into East Berlin in the period of political thaw since the building of the Wall in 1961. There was an emergence of beat and jazz music and the resident Canadian Perry Friedman introduced the new culture of folk songs from the American civil rights movement. These influences were incorporated into the repertoires of groups hitherto dominated by Brecht/Eisler and international portest songs and lead to the diverse repertoire of the “Oktoberklub”.

In 1969 the Eterna label released the album “Oktoberklub – Sing mit”, celebrating the first three years of the Oktoberklub with a recording of a concert at the Kongresshalle Berlin, February 16s, 1969.

Vietnamesisches Siegeslied – Oktoberklub
Träum nicht von den gläsernen Sternen – Gebrüder Conrads
Lutschina – Lutschina-Gruppe Moskau
Meinst du, die Russen wollen Krieg – Hartmut König
…gehört dem Volk – Oktoberklub
Körösporti – Gerilla-Gruppe Budapest
Die Fahrt ins Holz – Singeklub der Lessingschule Hoyerswerda
Gulesta – Singeklub der Lessingschule Hoyerswerda
A la huelga – Joan & José
Streiklied der Fliesenleger – Gebrüder Conrads
Wer-wen – Hartmut König
Treptower Park – Oktoberklub
Russisches Volkslied – Lutschina-Gruppe Moskau
Eine kleine Frage –  Gruppe “pasaremos”, Dresden

Zwei Stunden vierzig Minuten – Oktoberklub

Oktoberklub – Sing mit – 3 Jahre Oktoberklub (Eterna, 1969)
(192 kbps, cover art included)

To be continued…

“Singe-Bewegung” and “Oktoberklub” in East Germany, part 2.

The Singing Movement

However, in December 1965 the 11th plenary assembly of the Central Committee of the SED (“Socialist Unity Party of Germany”) launched a frontal attack on dissident art and the new youth culture, blacklisting a number of films and vilifying Wolf Biermann as “petit bourgeois/anarchistic” and Beat music as “decadent”. That was followed in early 1967 by an ideological clampdown on the whole hootenanny movement, henceforth renamed Singebewegung (i.e. “Singing Movement”, officially supplanting the foreign expression hootenanny) and by and large co-opted by the FDJ (Freie Deutsche Jugend, i.e. “Free German Youth”). Time and again, however, songwriters and clubs managed to avoid being co-opted, and eventually fused into a cultural melting pot that was to produce many talents. The “Singing Movement” engineered essentially to impose an artificial socialist culture on the country’s youth, ultimately fell wide of the mark.

“Der Oktober-Klub singt” is a recording of an public event at the AMIGA studio Berlin, June 25, 1967.


01 Sag mir wo Du stehst
02 Wer bin ich und wer bist Du
03 Phyllis und die Mutter
04 Pas de deux im Zwiebelmond
05 Abendlied
06 Min Jehann
07 Vorahnung
08 In Spanien die Blüten
09 Übergang über den Ebro
10 Wie starb Benno Ohnesorg
11 We Shall Not Be Moved
12 Knüpflied auf eine Unruhestifterin
13 Zwischen Roggenfeld und Hecken
14 Als ich kam durchs Oderluch
15 Von einem Alptraum
16 Friedenslied
17 Partisanen vom Amur
18 Oktober-Song
19 Ech Jablotschko
20 Lied vom Feuertod einer lieben guten Tante
21 Ungarisches Stundenlied
22 Schau her

Oktober-Klub – Der Oktober-Klub singt (AMIGA, 1968)
(192 kbps, cover art included)

To be continued…

“Singe-Bewegung” and “Oktoberklub” in East Germany, part 1.

In the early 1960s, after the erection of the Berlin wall, East Germany underwent a phase of economic reforms accompanied by a short-lived ideological thaw. Literature and cinema dared a critical take on real life behind the Iron Curtain. The “hot music” the regime had formerly stifled was now promoted. With the indigenous folk and protest songs came “left-wing” songs from “the other side”. The new song culture that emerged differed markedly from the songs of struggle and agitprop of previous years.

The musical protest movement in the West inspired many artists in East Germany. In 1963 Wolf Biermann wrote Ballade vom Briefträger William L. Moore (Ballad of a Mailman), which Fasia Jansen performed to resounding applause at the first West German folkfest at Burg Waldeck in 1964. In July 1966, half a year after being barred from performing and publishing his work, Biermann sent a Vietnam song to Walter Ulbricht (first secretary of the socialist party), declaring that it had “every chance of becoming an important song in the international anti-Vietnam war movement”. Gerhard Schöne, the 15-year-old son of a priest in the Saxon town of Coswig, wrote Sag mir, was ist deine Welt (Tell me what’s your world) to the tune of the West German hit Welche Farbe hat die Welt (What colour’s the world), which made a name for him in church circles. Around the same time an 18-year-old high school student in East Berlin, Hartmut König, composed Sag mir, wo du stehst based on the American song Which Side Are You On: König’s version became the most best-known title at the Hootenanny Club (later called the Oktoberklub). In 1968 Eulenspiegel-Verlag, an East Berlin publisher, put out a collection of protest songs with lyrics by Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Franz Josef Degenhardt, Dieter Süverkrüp, Hartmut König et al. It came with an LP on which Manfred Krug sang songs from Chile, France, the US and a Vietnam song of his own.

In 1960 Perry Friedman, a Canadian folk singer who’d moved to East Berlin the year before, began holding “hootenannys” there, i.e. sing-along folk music parties. He set out to transplant in the GDR the casual style of singing and performing songs that had become an established tradition in American left-wing circles. In 1965, DT 64, the radio station for young people, began promoting these events, and hootenanny clubs sprouted up a year later in Berlin and other East German cities. These clubs attracted both amateurs and pros, including Perry Friedman, Hartmut König, Reiner Schöne, Bettina Wegner, the Beat band Team 4, and many others. The hootenanny movement was neither oppositional nor unofficial. Though government-funded, it was not a campaign decreed from above, but a relatively spontaneous outgrowth that was unusually laid-back and unconstrained by East German standards in those days.

Perry Friedman – Hootenanny Vol. 2 (AMIGA, 1966)
(192 kbps, vinyl rip, cover art included)

To be continued…

A few weeks ago a friendly reader of this blog shared some rare Ernst Busch recordings with us. He saved the recordings from some russian sites and put them together in one file. Thanks a lot for your work!!!

Ernst Busch recorded these songs between 1935 and 1936 during his exile in Moscow. They were released on four shellac singles on the Gramplasttrest label.


1. Einheitsfrontlied – Die Moorsoldaten

2. Kominternlied – Thälmann-Lied (Für den Kameraden Thälmann: Hoch die Faust!) (1934)

3. Bandera roja – UHP

4. Alabama-Song – Ballade von den Säckeschmeißern

Ernst Busch – Four Shellacs (1936, Gramplasttrest)
((320 kbps, scans of the labels included)