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SUITE Nr. 2, Op.24 « NIEMANDSLAND » for Wind Ensemble by HANNS EISLER (Germany, 1898 – 1962)

[#252] May 20, 2024

1931 | Wind Ensemble | Grade 5 | 5'-10' | Suite

German composer Hanns Eisler

Suite Nr.2, Op. 24 « Niemandsland » by German composer Hanns Eisler is our Composition of the Week.

The music was composed by Eisler for the German antiwar film “Niemandsland” (literately No Man’s Land) of 1931, directed by Victor Trivas.

Aesthetically this music is very closed to Kurt Weill’s Little Threepenny Opera, whose text was adapted by Berthold Brecht, a lifetime Eisler’s friend and artistic partner, that had been a huge success between 1928 and 1930 and would eventually reach over the years, thousands of representations in Europe.

The instrumentation used by Eisler, relates to a saloon orchestra, using sometimes accordion or banjo, drums, piano and bass, as well as some wind instruments, which represented the sound imaginary of the working classes.

Another reason why this type of instrumentation became fashionable is the simple fact that in the small provincial theaters where the works were produced, usually the house orchestras did not have enough means and space.

In this Suite Nr.2, Eisler uses Eb clarinet, 2 clarinets, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, 2 trumpets, trombone, tuba, piano, percussionist, banjo, 4 cellos, 2 double basses.

Similar instrumentations would be also used for other orchestral suites (Kuhle Wampe, Das Jugend has das Wort, Dans les rues, Le Grand Jeu …).


“Niemandsland” is structured in four movements: I.Vorspiel ; II.Capriccio über judische Volkslieder; III.Andante; IV.Marschtempo and it has a duration of about 9 minutes.


Hanns Eisler is best known for composing the national anthem of East Germany, for his long artistic association with Bertolt Brecht, and for the scores he wrote for films. The “Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler Berlin” is named after him.


During the Great War, Hanns Eisler served as a front-line soldier in the Austro-Hungarian army and was wounded several times in combat. Returning to Vienna after Austria's defeat, he studied from 1919 to 1923 under Arnold Schoenberg. Eisler was the first of Schoenberg's disciples to compose in the twelve-tone or serial technique. He married Charlotte Demant in 1920; they separated in 1934. In 1925, he moved to Berlin—then a hothouse of experimentation in music, theater, film, art and politics. There he became an active supporter of the Communist Party of Germany and became involved with the November Group. In 1928, he taught at the Marxist Workers' School in Berlin and his son Georg Eisler, who would grow up to become an important painter, was born. His music became increasingly oriented towards political themes and, to Schoenberg's dismay, more "popular" in style with influences drawn from jazz and cabaret. At the same time, he drew close to Bertolt Brecht, whose own turn towards Marxism happened at about the same time. The collaboration between the two artists lasted for the rest of Brecht's life.


After 1933, Eisler's music and Brecht's poetry were banned by the Nazi Party. Both artists went into exile. While Brecht settled in Svendborg, Denmark, Eisler traveled for several years, working in Prague, Vienna, Paris, London, Moscow, Spain, Mexico and Denmark. He made two visits to the US, with speaking tours from coast to coast.

In 1938, Eisler finally managed to emigrate to the United States with a permanent visa. In New York City, he taught composition at New School for Social Research and wrote experimental chamber and documentary music. In 1942, he moved to Los Angeles where he joined Brecht, who had arrived in California in 1941 after a long trip eastward from Denmark across the Soviet Union and the Pacific Ocean.

In the U.S., Eisler composed music for various documentary films and for eight Hollywood film scores, two of which – Hangmen Also Die! and None but the Lonely Heart – were nominated for Oscars in 1944 and 1945 respectively. Also working on Hangmen Also Die! was Bertolt Brecht, who wrote the story along with director Fritz Lang. From 1927 to the end of his life, Eisler wrote the music for 40 films, making film music the largest part of his compositions after vocal music for chorus and/or solo voices.

On 1 February 1940, he began work on the "Research Program on the Relation between Music and Films" funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, which he got with the help of film director Joseph Losey and The New School. This work resulted in the book Composing for the Films which was published in 1947, with Theodor W. Adorno as co-author.

In several chamber and choral compositions of this period, Eisler returned to the twelve-tone method he had abandoned in Berlin. His Fourteen Ways of Describing the Rain – composed for Arnold Schoenberg's 70th birthday celebration – is considered a masterpiece of the genre.

Eisler's promising career in the U.S. was interrupted by the Cold War. He was one of the first artists placed on the Hollywood blacklist by the film studio bosses. In two interrogations by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the composer was accused of being "the Karl Marx of music" and the chief Soviet agent in Hollywood. Among his accusers was his sister Ruth Fischer, who also testified before the Committee that her other brother, Gerhart, was a Communist agent.

Eisler's supporters—including his friend Charlie Chaplin and the composers Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein—organized benefit concerts to raise money for his defense fund, but he was deported early in 1948.



Other compositions for winds include:


  • Divertimento Op.4, for wind quintet (1923)

  • Tempo der Zeit, for alto, bass, narrator, mixed choir and winds (1929)

  • Suite Nr 3 “Kuhle Wampe” (1931 – 1932)

  • Suite Nr.4 “Die Jugend hat das Wort” (1932)

  • Suite Nr.5 “Dans les rues” (1933)






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