Dessau, Paul

views updated May 18 2018

Dessau, Paul

Dessau, Paul, prominent German composer; b. Hamburg, Dec. 19, 1894; d. Konigs Wusterhausen, near Berlin, June 27, 1979. He studied violin with Florian Zajic at the Klindworth-Scharwenka Cons, in Berlin (1910–12), and then returned to Hamburg to study piano and score reading with Eduard Behm and composition with Max Loewengard. In 1912 he became corepetiteur at the Hamburg City Theater, and then went to Bremem in 1913 as an operetta conductor at the Tivoli Theater. After military service during World War I, he returned to Hamburg in 1918 as conductor and composer at the Kammerspiele. He was co-repetiteur and conductor at the Cologne opéra (1919–23) and at the Mainz City Theater (1923–25), and then was first conductor at the Berlin Stadtische Oper from 1925. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Dessau lost his post and made his way to Paris, where he came into contact with Rene Leibowitz and 12-tone music. In 1939 he went to the U.S. While in N.Y., he commenced a long collaboration with Bertolt Brecht. In 1944 he went to Holly-wood, where he composed for films. He also composed the music for his most successful collaboration with Brecht, Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (1946). In 1948 he settled in East Germany, where he continued to work with Brecht until the latter’s death in 1956. In 1952 Dessau was made a member of the German Academy of Arts, becoming vice-president and prof, there in 1959. He taught at the Zeuthen school, near Berlin, from 1960. In 1953, 1956, 1965, and 1974 he was awarded state prizes by the German Democratic Republic, and in 1964 he received its National Order of Merit. His wife was Ruth Berghaus. In his earliest scores, Dessau pursued expressionist and neo-Classical precepts. He then developed an interest in Jewish folk music while exploring 12-tone music. His association with Brecht led him into more popular modes of expression. His works after settling in East Germany are imbued with the progressive ideals of socialist realism, but with increasing serial applications.


DRAMATIC opéra : Giuditta (1910–12;unfinished); Orpheus 1930/31, radio operetta (Berlin, 1931; rev. as Orpheus und der Burgmeister); Die Reisen des Gliicksgotts (1945; unfinished); Das Verhoor des Lukullus (1949; Berlin, March 17, 1951; rev. version as Die Verurteilung des Lukullus, Berlin, Oct. 12, 1951); Puntila (1956–59; Berlin, Nov. 15,1966); Lanzelot (1967–69; Berlin, Dec. 19, 1969); Einstein (1971–73; Berlin, Feb. 16, 1974); Leonce und Lena (1977–78; Berlin, Nov. 24, 1979). I n c i d e n t a l M u s i c To : Brecht’s 99%, later retitled Furcht und Elend des Dritten Reiches (1938), Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (1946), Der gute Mensch von Sezuan (1947), Hen Puntila und sein Knecht (1949), Mann ist Mann (1951), and Der kaukasische Kreidekreis (1953–54); also Goethe’s Faust, part I (1949) and Urfaust (1952), F. Wolf’s Der arme Konrad (1951), J. Becher’s Der Weg nach Fussen (1956), Shakespeare’s Coriolanus (1964), Weiss’s VietnamDiskurs (1968), and Miiller’s Zement (1973). Also film scores, tanzscenen, lehrstiicke, and schulstucke.ORCH.: 2 syms.: No. I (1926) and No. 2 (1934; rev. 1962); Trauermarsch for Winds (1953); Sinfonischer Marsch, retitled Sozialistische Festouverture (1953; rev. 1963); 4 sets of Orchestermusik: No. 1,1955 (1955), No. 2, Meer dur Sturme (1967), No. 3, Lenin (1970), and No. 4 (1973); In memoriam Bertolt Brecht (1957); Bach-Variationen (1963); Divertimento for Chamber Orch. (1964). CHAMBER : Concertino for Violin, Flute, Clarinet, and Horn (1924); Lustige Variationen uber Hab mein’ Wagen vollgeladen for Clarinet, Bassoon, and Harpsichord (1928; rev. for Clarinet, Bassoon, and Piano, 1953); 5 string quartets (1932; 1942–43; 1943–46; 1948; 1955); Hebraische Melodie for Violin and Piano (1935); Burleske for Cello and Piano (1932); Suite for Saxophone and Piano (1935); Jewish Dance for Violin and Piano (1940); 2 Kanons for Flute, Clarinet, and Bassoon (1942); Arie for Cello and Piano (1950); 5 Tanzstucke for Mandolin, Guitar, and Accordion (1951); Quattrodramma 1965 for 4 Cellos, 2 Pianos, and 2 Percussion (1965); 3 Stucke for 2 Trumpets or Clarinets and Trombone or Bassoon (1975). Piano : Sonata (1914; rev. 1948); 12 Studien (1932); 10 Kinderstucke (1934; rev. 1953); Zwolfton Versuche (1937); Guernica (1938); II Judische Volktanze (1946); Klavierstiick uber BACH (1948); 5 Studien fiir Anfanger (1948); Sonatine (1955); 3 Intermezzi (1955); Klavierstiicke fiir Maxim (1955–63). VOCAL: O r a t o r i o s and Cantatas: Haggada for Soli, Chorus, Children’s Chorus, and Orch. (1936; rev. 1962); 2 Gebete for Voice, Chorus, and Organ (1939); Jeworechecho for Baritone, Chorus, and Organ (1941); Internationale Kriegsfibel (1944–45); Deutsches Miserere for Soli, Chorus, Children’s Chorus, Orch., Organ, and Trautonium (1944r-47); An die Mütter und an die Lehrer for Mezzo- soprano, Speaker, Chorus, 3 Trumpets, 2 Pianos, and Timpani (1950); Die Appell for Soli, Speaker, Chorus, Children’s Chorus, and Orch. (1951–52); Die Erziehung der Hirse for Baritone, Speaker, Chorus, Youth Chorus, and Orch. (1952; rev. 1954); Lilo Herrmann for Sprechstimme, Small Chorus, Flute, Clarinet, Trumpet, Violin, Viola, and Cello (1953); Hymne auf den Beginn einer neuen Geschichte der Menschheit for Soprano, Speaker, Chorus, 3 Pianos, 2 Harps, Double Bass, Timpani, and Percussion (1959; rev. 1964); Judische Chronik for Baritone, Speaker, Chamber Chorus, and Small Orch. (1960; in collaboration with Blacher, Hart-mann, Henze, and Wagner-Régeny); Margurer Bericht for Baritone, Chorus, Children’s Chorus, and Orch. (1961); Appell der Arbeiterklasse for Alto, Tenor, Chorus, and Orch. (1961); Requiem fiir Lumumba for Soprano, Baritone, Speaker, Chorus, and Instruments (1963); Geschaftsbericht for 4 Soli, Speaker, Chorus, and Instruments (1967). O t h e r V o c a l : Psalm XV (1927); Psalm XIII (1930–31); Chormusik mit Schlagzeug (1930–31); Ausmarsch (1933); Hawel Hawalim for Chorus and Piano or Organ (1939); Grabschrift fiir Gorki for Unison Men’s Voices and Winds (1947); Grabschrift fur Rosa Luxemburg for Chorus and Orch. (1948); Grabschrift fiir Karl Liebknecht for Chorus and Orch. (1948); Proletarier aller Lander, vereinigt euch! (1948); 3 Chorlieder for Chorus and Orch. (1949); Grabschrift fiir Lenin for Chorus and Orch. (1951); Dreistimmiger Kanon fiir Otto Nagel (1959); Sang der Gesange for Chorus and Percussion (1963); much solo vocal music.


Musikarbeit in der Schule (Berlin, 1968); Aus Gesprachen (Leipzig, 1975); Notizen und Noten (Leipzig, 1974); F. Hennenberg, ed., Opern (Berlin, 1976).


F. Hennenberg, D. Brecht: Musikalische Arbeiten (Berlin, 1963); idem, P. D.: Eine Biographic (Leipzig, 1965); idem, Fur Sie portratiert: P. D. (Leipzig, 1974; 2nd ed., 1981); K. Angermann, edv Symposion P. D. (Hofheim, 1994).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

Dessau, Paul

views updated Jun 11 2018


DESSAU, PAUL (1894–1979), German composer. The grandson of a cantor, Dessau was born in Hamburg. He was co-répétiteur in Hamburg (1912) and conducted operetta at the Tivoli Theatre, Bremen (1913). In 1919 he became co-répétiteur and conductor in Cologne. In 1925 he was appointed principal conductor at the Stätlische Oper, Berlin, and won the Schott Prize for his Violin Concertino. He left Germany in 1933 and visited Palestine. In 1939 he settled in New York and wrote a number of film scores (such as Adamah in 1947), but his political convictions led him to return to East Germany in 1948 and he made his home in East Berlin. Dessau composed in several fields. His vocal music, influenced by the concise verse of Bertolt Brecht (whom he met in New York in 1943), embraced almost every genre from political song to cantata and full-length opera. The latter include the operas Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (1946), Das Verhoer des Lukullus (1951), Puntila (1957–59), Lanzelot (1969), Einstein (1971–73), and Leonce and Lena (1977–78). Dessau wrote also functional music for theater and radio. In 1936, he composed for the synagogue an oratorio, Haggadah, for which Max *Brod supplied the text. His early works were in free tonality; from 1936 he was influenced by the twelve-tone technique of *Leibowitz. After the rigorous separation of West and East Berlin, he remained one of the few artists allowed to commute between the two Germanys. He became a member of the East Berlin Deutsche Akademie der Künste in 1952 and was appointed professor in 1959. He was honored by both the East and West Berlin academies, he received an honorary doctorate from Leipzig University (1974), and four National Prizes of the German Democratic Republic (1953, 1956, 1965, 1974). Among his works are operas for children, the cantata Requiem for Lumumba (1963), and symphonic and chamber music.

add. bibliography:

Grove online; mgg; Baker's Biographical Dictionary; F. Hennenberg, Dessau-Brecht Musikalische Arbeiten (1963), with bibl.; idem, Paul Dessau (1965); idem, Für Sie porträtiert: Paul Dessau (1974, 1981); J.J. Gordon, "Paul Dessau and his Opera Einstein," Ph.D. thesis, University College of Wales (1990).

[Peter Emanuel Gradenwitz /

Israela Stein (2nd ed.)]

Dessau, Paul

views updated Jun 27 2018

Dessau, Paul (b Hamburg, 1894; d E. Berlin, 1979). Ger. composer and conductor. Opera coach, Hamburg, 1913–14. Cond. Cologne Opera 1918–23, Berlin State Opera 1926. Lived in Paris 1933–9, USA 1939–45, then returned to Ger. Close assoc. of Brecht, having written incidental mus. to several of his plays. Other works incl. 5 str. qts.; Deutsches miserere, choral work to text by Brecht; operas Die Verurteilung des Lukullus (The Trial of Lucullus, lib. by Brecht, 1949), Puntila (lib. after Brecht, 1957–9), Lanzelot (1969), Einstein (1971–3); In memoriam Bertolt Brecht, orch. (1957); Requiem für Lumumba, sop., bar., spkr., ch., ens. (1963); 2 syms. (1926, 1934, rev. 1962); 3 Orchestermusik (1955, 1967, 1973); and many songs.