Paul Dessau (1894--1979) was among the most principled and hard‐working composers whose career flourished under uneasy circumstances in postwar East Germany after the country's partition. His
exceptionally diverse output is reflected in the heterogeneous contents of this compendium, the value of which is unrivalled as an introduction to a vital figure in the culture of his time and place. His political sympathies may be deduced from his frequent collaborations with the radical playwright Bertholt Brecht, and by the dedication of his Orchestral Music No.3 to Lenin. But he also wrote film music for early movies of Walt Disney, a dyed-in-the-wool anti-Communist, and his art both embodies and transcends his surroundings.
Once past two discs of punchy orchestral music and a CD of piano music which includes his musical interpretation of Picasso's seminal Guernica painting, the set concentrates on the dramatic music which
lies at the heart of Dessau's oeuvre, all-in local performances which were made by performers who knew the composer and his music well enough to lend their recordings the authoritative stamp of authenticity.
There are quirky continuations of the German Lied tradition as well as more strident and even agitprop settings of texts from Brecht's Mother Courage. Four of Dessau's seven operas are included: Puntila,
Leonce and Lena, Die Verurteilung des Lukullus and Einstein, all of them politically motivated and influenced by cabaret culture while exploring Dessau's own spiky brand of tonality.