The history of Hanns Eisler School of Music Berlin is closely connected to the political situation and developments of Berlin. The school’s opening in 1950 was essentially politically motivated. After the establishment of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the only university of music and all the conservatories were located in the west of the city. Thus in 1949, the Ministry for Public Education decided to open a new music university in East Berlin. This was founded on the 1st of October 1959 on Wilhelmstraße under the name “Deutsche Hochschule für Musik”.
The founding president was the musicologist Prof. Georg Knepler. The first teachers’ body included renowned artists, academics and teachers such as Rudolf Wagner-Régeny and Hanns Eisler (composition), Helmut Koch (conducting), Helma Prechter and Arno Schellenberg (voice), Carl Adolf Martienssen and Grete Herwig (piano), Bernhard Günther (cello), Werner Buchholz (viola) and Ewald Koch (clarinet), Wilhelm Martens and Gustav Havemann (violin), the latter with a difficult political past dating from the National Socialist era.
Further presidents were Eberhard Rebling (1959-1971), Dieter Zechlin (1971-1982), Olaf Koch (1982-1986), Erhard Ragwitz (1986-1989), Ruth Zechlin (1990), Annerose Schmidt (1990-1995), Christoph Poppen (1995-2000), Christhard Gössling (2000-2008), Jörg-Peter Weigle (2008-2012, from April – September 2014 Acting President) and Stefan Willich (2012–214).From September 2014 till May 2015, Professor Birgitta Wollenweber – who was the School’s first vice president – has performed the duties of president. Since October 2015 is Professor Robert Ehrlich president of the Hanns Eisler.
At the same time a junior school, “Berufsvollschule für Music”, was opened on 1/9/1950. The basis for this establishment was the acknowledgment of the need for the support of new talent and the logical correlation between these two institutions.
In 1955, a direction course was introduced, making this one of the first schools in Europe to offer university training in opera and music theater direction.
Since 1964, the school has taken its current name, Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler Berlin.
In 1965, the “Berufsvollschule für Musik” became “Spezialschule für Musik” and was directly attached to Hanns Eisler School of Music for the sake of an intensive, constructive promotion of new talent. In 1991, it was again renamed and is now known as “Musikgymnasium Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach” (“Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach” Music College Berlin).
After German reunification, the school’s administration was taken on by the City of Berlin. It is one of the city state’s public universities and is assigned under the Senate Administration for Education, Youth and Science.
In 2002, the Kurt Singer Institute for Music Physiology and Musicians’ Health was founded. The restructuring of Klangzeitort Institute for New Music followed in 2003, and the establishment of the Jazz Institute Berlin (JIB) in 2005. All three institutions act in close cooperation with Berlin University of the Arts.
In addition to the main building at Gendarmenmarkt, a further location was opened for the school with Neuer Marstall in 2005. This is situated in an equally prominent position at the Schloßplatz near the Museuminsel Berlin.
About Hanns Eisler
Hanns Eisler was born on the 6th of July 1898 in Leipzig as the son of the philosopher Rudolph Eisler. As a child, he relocated to Vienna and received lessons in composition from Arnold Schönberg from 1918 to 1923. Already in his early years, he formed his own path “between rebellious perfidy and arduous tenderness” (Adorno): He broke through the bounds of traditional music genres and achieved wide resonance also outside of the concert halls with his compositions, experimental films, radio, workers’ choirs, theater and cabaret.
His literary sensitivity predestined him for his collaboration with Bertolt Brecht which began in 1930, continuing until Brecht’s death in 1956. Out of this collaboration came great choir works such as “The Decision”, cantatas such as “The Mother”, films such as “Kuhle Wampe” and “Hangmen Also Die” as well as numerous Lieder and stage music pieces (for example “Schweyk im zweiten Weltkrieg”). Due to his Jewish heritage and communist beliefs, Hanns Eisler had to flea Berlin in 1933.
After some short stays in various European countries, he settled as a professor in New York in 1938. Subsequently, he moved to Los Angeles in 1942 where he worked on new theoretical and practical approaches to film music with Adorno and Brecht. Many of his most important Lieder, orchestral and chamber music works were realized in California. In the course of his deportation from the United States on the grounds of his alleged relations with the Soviet Union, he was honored with a farewell concert by renowned American colleagues such as Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland.
In 1950, Hanns Eisler returned to Berlin and directed a masterclass for composition from 1951 at the German Academy of Arts. His enthusiasm to build a socialist state in the eastern half of Germany, however did not resound with the Government of the GDR. The consequent campaign against his “Faustus” opera project paralyzed his creative force and drove him to inner emigration. His open commitment to Arnold Schönberg drew further opposition. Despite official honors received for his composition of the GDR’s national anthem, his main works were hardly performed in the GDR. Hanns Eisler died on the 6th of September 1962 in East Berlin. The school carries his name since 1964.