Eric Zeisl (1905-1959) was a remarkably talented composer active during the first half of the 20th century, and always with an original voice. His music offers a compelling fusion of Viennese, Slavic, and Hebraic stylistic elements, and he is often mentioned alongside other "Jewish composers" such as the great Ernst Bloch, Joseph Achron, Paul Ben-haim, Hans Krasa, Viktor Ullmann, and many others.
This was/is my personal "recording of 2013" so to speak, and it's an extremely important release that helps to paint a richer portrait of this fascinating man. All three works presented here are absolute knockouts.
Eric Zeisl was born in Vienna on May 8th, 1905. From childhood, he demonstrated an unshakable resolve to compose. Against strong family resistance, he entered the Vienna State Academy at age fourteen. Two years later, his first publication appeared, a set of songs. Despite acclaim as one of Austria's brightest young compositional lights, Zeisl eventually fell victim to Europe's gathering political storm. In November of 1938, he fled Vienna for Paris and temporary refuge, but it was only upon reaching in September 1939 that he found permanent sanctuary. Against formidable odds, he achieved recognition in his adopted land, with praise for his work coming from fellow composers Korngold, Milhaud, Stravinsky, and Toch among others. Then, on February 18th 1959, at the age of 53 and at the height of his creative powers, Eric Zeisl suffered a heart attack after teaching an evening class at Los Angeles City College. He died that night.
Unhappy early years, heredity, and environment united to shape the young Zeisl's creative personality. Drawing from the vitality of Slavic peasantry and the spirituality of the synagogue, he evolved a style notable for expressive melody, rich harmonies, strong dance-derived rhythms, and as you shall hear imaginative scoring.
The booklet notes are superb, and especially interesting is the information concerning Zeisl's inspiration to compose "Kleine Sinfonie nach Bildern der Roswitha Bitterlich" (Little Symphony after Pictures of Roswitha Bitterlich) after viewing an exhibition of paintings by a fourteen year old girl.