Born in Leipzig, Eisler studied with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, and in 1923 composed the first twelve-tone work by a Schoenberg disciple, Palmström, Op. 5, and applied for membership in the Communist Party of Germany, though he allowed the application to lapse. Eisler started teaching at the Marxist Workers’ School in Berlin in 1928, and continued to write protest songs and kampflieder (“songs for the struggle”). His 27-year friendship and creative partnership with Bertolt Brecht began in 1930, and two years later, he became a committee member of the International Music Bureau in Moscow and later served as its chair. When Hitler came to power in January 1933, Eisler quickly went into exile, living in Vienna, London, Paris, and Copenhagen. When Chaplin met Eisler at Clifford Odets’s party in 1939, Chaplin thought it would be a great joke if Eisler helped him with the music for THE GREAT DICTATOR. Eisler later worked with Chaplin on MONSIEUR VERDOUX and, at Chaplin’s request, composed six cues for a proposed re-release of THE CIRCUS.
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