Universal Edition - Hanns Eisler – Die Maßnahme

Hanns Eisler

Hanns Eisler
Die Maßnahme

Work Details

Opus: op. 20
Year of composition: 1930
Subtitle: Lehrstück von Bertolt Brecht in 8 Nummern
Scored for: for tenor 3 speakers, mixed choir and small orchestra
Composer: Hanns Eisler
Text Author: Bertolt Brecht
Translator: John Willit
Instrumentation details: 1st horn in F; 2nd horn in F; 1st trumpet in Bb; 2nd trumpet in Bb; 3rd trumpet in Bb; 1st trombone; 2nd trombone; 1st, 2nd timpani; percussion; piano
Duration: 58′
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Audio Excerpt

Die Maßnahme, op. 20

World Première

Location: Philharmonie Berlin / Germany
Date: 13.12.1930
Choir: Berliner Arbeiterchor
Conductor: Karl Rankl
Main Soloists: A. M. Topitz, T; Helene Weigel, Ernst Busch, Alexander Granach - narrators

Work Introduction

Brecht used the words “[It] is an attempt to use a didactic play to cultivate a certain intervening attitude” to preface his play Die Maßnahme, which recounts the story of a task, an action taken involving various means and decisions.

Four agitators are debating their decision. Five of them had been assigned the task of supporting the Communist movement in China. The youngest of them had acted according to “his heart,” flouting laws and thereby endangering all of them and the assignment. With his consent, the other four killed the youngest one and threw his body into a lime-pit – thus also mutually agreeing to expunge any traces of suspicion. *

The piece ends with an argument about principles – how grossly one may breach fundamental moral tenets when combating oppression and exploitation.

This is another didactic work which Brecht modelled on Japanese Noh theatre. It was hotly controversial after its first performance in 1930; Brecht made a second version in 1932.

Due to possible misunderstandings of the play’s political orientation, Brecht forbade its performance; the prohibition was lifted for his 100th birthday in 1998.


* Excerpts from the programme booklet, Dresden State Playhouse, 2000/2001 season