Paul Dessau

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Paul Dessau
BirthplaceHamburg, German Empire
Composer and Conductor

Dessau, Paul


Born Dec. 19, 1894, in Hamburg. German composer and conductor (German Democratic Republic). Member of the United Socialist Party of Germany since 1948. Member of the German Academy of Arts since 1950 (vice-president from 1959 to 1969).

Dessau began appearing in concerts while he was a child. He studied piano and composition from 1910 to 1912 at the Klindworth-Scharwenka Conservatory in Berlin. In the 1920’s he conducted in theaters in Cologne, Mainz, and Berlin. Beginning in 1928 he wrote film music and works for workers’ vocal ensembles (Vereine). After the fascists came to power, he emigrated first to Paris (1933), then to the USA (1939), where he joined the Communist Party in 1946. He taught in music schools and wrote songs for the masses, dedicated to republican Spain and the French Popular Front. The song Thälmann Column (1936) was widely known. In 1942, Dessau became friendly with B. Brecht, and this friendship to a large extent determined the future work of the composer. In 1948 he returned from emigration.

A many-faceted and original artist, Dessau took part in many different kinds of musical activity, including symphonic and chamber music, songs and choruses, oratorios, and film music. His most significant works are operas written to Brecht’s librettos The Condemnation of Lucullus (1949) and Puntila (1960), as well as incidental music for Brecht’s plays (Mother Courage and Her Children and The Good Woman of Setzuan, for example). In his vocal compositions Dessau used texts of V. V. Mayakovsky, P. Neruda, F. Wolf, and I. Becher and Cuban poets. He received the National Prize of the German Democratic Republic in 1953, 1956, and 1965.


Hennenberg, F.Dessau-Brecht musikalische Arbeiten. Berlin, 1963.
Hennenberg, F. Paul Dessau: Eine Biographic. Leipzig, 1965.
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References in periodicals archive ?
COMPOSER PAUL DESSAU WAS ARGUABLY ONE of the most significant composers of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic,
Paul Dessau returned to Germany in 1948, and settled in East Berlin in 1949.
Paul Dessau died in Berlin on June 28, 1979 after an esteemed career as a leading composer of the GDR.
Geburtstages von Paul Dessau, the composer commented on his dedication to Marxism.
With the Cold War in the past, it is time to reevaluate composers from the GDR such as Paul Dessau.
Thomas Nadar, "The Music of Kurt Weill, Hanns Eisler, and Paul Dessau in the Dramatic Works of Bertolt Brecht" (PhD dissertation, University of Michigan, 1974), 44-50.
For the film enthusiast, though, this book is a treasure-trove of information, Prawer gives numerous facts on production, distribution, and reception that can be difficult to locate, he addresses the role of music by Jewish composers such as Paul Dessau and Hanns Eisler in "silent" film and beyond, and he even provides post- 1933 biographical information, for example when he describes how actors Hans Albers and Hans Moser supported their Jewish partners during the Nazi period (p.
The third, Voyages of the God of Happiness, was to be an opera with Paul Dessau and "an exploration of the viability of parable as a vehicle for antifascist drama" (p.
Chapter 4 is devoted to Lucullus, the controversial collaboration with Paul Dessau in which Brecht sought to consolidate through practice his considerable stature, as a distinguished returning exile, in the German Democratic Republic.
NEW YORK A Jean Cocteau Repertory presentation of a play in three acts by Bertolt Brecht, in a translation by Marc Blitzstein with music by Paul Dessau.
Nor is it often that a new publication presents an anthology of unknown pieces by such recognized composers as Kurt Weill, Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger, Stephan Wolpe, Aaron Copland, Paul Dessau, and Ernst Toch.
Das Verhor in der Oper, edited with notes by Joachim Lucchesi, documents the genesis and the reception of the opera Das Verhor des Lukullus (The Trial of Lucullus) composed in 1951 by Paul Dessau on a libretto by Bertolt Brecht.