Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The German Series #3 - Ernst Busch

Ernst Busch (1900 - 1980) was a German singer and actor.
Busch first rose to prominence as an interpreter of political songs, particularly those of Kurt Tucholsky, in the Berlin cabaret scene of the 1920s. He starred in the original 1928 production of Bertolt Brecht's Threepenny Opera, as well as the subsequent 1931 film by Georg Wilhelm Pabst.
A lifelong Communist, Busch fled Nazi Germany in 1933 with the Gestapo on his heels, eventually settling in the Soviet Union. In 1937 he joined the International Brigades to fight against Fascism in Spain. His wartime songs were then recorded and broadcasted by Radio Barcelona and Radio Madrid. After the Spanish Republic fell to Franco, Busch migrated to Belgium where he was interned during the German occupation and later imprisoned in Camp Gurs, France and Berlin. Freed by the Soviet Army in 1945, he settled in East Berlin where he worked with Bertold Brecht and Erwin Piscator at the "Berliner Ensemble". 

A beloved figure in the DDR, he is best remembered for his performance in the title role of Brecht's Galileo and his stirring recordings of workers songs, including many written by Hanns Eisler. He also made a memorable and haunting recording of Peat Bog Soldiers. Many of Busch's original recordings from the 1930s are available in digitized form online and on CD; also available are re-recordings created during the late 1940s and early 1950s, which are equally stirring but perhaps less subtle in approach.
Ernst and Irene Busch, 1977

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