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Paul Dessau

1894 - 1979

The film composer Paul Dessau grew up in a musical family. Many of his family members were active as cantors, violinists and composers.

Therefore it was obvious that the young Paul Dessau also chose a musical career. He began to play the violin at the age of six and few years later he already had first public appearances and finally his first concert.

But then he had to give up his career as a violin player because of problems with his left hand. Therefore he went to Berlin in 1909 to make an education as a bandmaster. It followed engagements at the Stadttheater Hamburg where he was introduced to the composition bei Max Julius Loewengard.

So the way was paved for the future composer. But his rise became decelerated temporarily when he was drafted to World War I in 1915. When he could left the front because of injury he spent the rest of the war with a military band.

He continued his career as a composer after the war and he went to the Hamburger Kammerspielen. It followed engagements in Cologne, Mainz and Berlin.

When he turned away from the musical theater he found a new challenge in the film business. He already wrote first film compositions in the silent movie era, among them "Alice in the Wooly West" (26), "L'horloge magique ou La petite fille qui voulait être princesse" (28), "Schmutziges Geld" (28), "Unmoral" (28) and "Mutter Krausens Fahrt ins Glück" (29).

Paul Dessau became a demanded film composer in Germany with the rise of the sound film and he wrote the score for "Ich glaub' nie mehr an eine Frau" (30), "Die heiligen drei Brunnen" (30), "Stürme über dem Mont Blanc" (30), "Salto Mortale" (31), "Der weisse Rausch" (31), "Anna und Elisabeth" (33) and "S.O.S. Eisberg" (33).

But with the rise of the National Socialism Paul Dessau had to flee to France. There he went on smoothly with his career. He wrote the music for the movies "L'or dans la rue" (35), "Tarass Boulba" (36), "Cargaison blanche" (37), "Carrefour" (38), "Gibraltar" (38), "Le roman de Werther" (38) and "Le grand élan" (40).

With the outbreak of World War II he was also no longer safe in France and he went to the USA in 1939. He arrived in poor health but he recovered again and earned his living with different small jobs.

The change came when he met Bertolt Brecht who he already knew from Germany.
It followed compositions for oratorios and well-known works like "Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder" and "Der gute Mensch von Sezuan".
He also got again engagements for writing the music for movies and he was active for the productions "House of Frankenstein" (44), "The Woman in Green" (45), "The Wife of Mone Cristo" (46), "The Pretender" (47), "Devil's Cargo" (48) and "The Vicious Circle" (48).

Finally he returned to Germany again where he settled in East Berlin because as a communist he preferred this region than to West Germany. He continued his work as a composer and he wrote the music for radio plays, operas, the theater like "Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti" and the film, among them the productions "Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder" (55), "Urlaub auf Sylt" (57), "Das russiche Wunder" (64) and "Der kaukasische Kreidekreis" (73).

Besides his activity in music Paul Dessau was also engaged politically.

Paul Dessau was among others married with the actress Gudrun Kabisch, the writer Elisabeth Hauptmann and the choreographer Ruth Berghaus.

Other movies from Paul Dessau:
Die Pflicht zu Schweigen (28) Der erste Kuss (28) Die schönste Frau von Paris (28) Ruhiges Heim mit Küchenbenutzung (30) Das lockende Ziel (30) Die grosse Sehnsucht (30) Abenteuer im Engadin (32) Nordpol – Ahoi! (34) Avodah (36) Yoshiware (37) Accord final (38) The Rebel Son (38) L'esclave blanche (39) The Naughty Nineties (45) The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (45) Winter Wonderland (46) Adamah (49) Die Novemberrevolution 1918 (56) Der Weg nach Füssen (56) Du und mancher Kamerad (56) Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti (57) Der kaukasische Kreidekreis (58) Reportage aus Rossendorf (59) Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (61) Urfaust (61) Neuland unterm Pflug (67) Abschied (68)