Paul Dessau

(Paul Dessau)

GDR, 1966, 31 min, b&w
In German; English subtitles
Themes & Genres:


A lively portrait of prominent (East) German composer and conductor Paul Dessau (1984-1979).

We experience Dessau during rehearsals of his orchestral work entitled Bach Variations (1962-63) and teaching composition to schoolchildren—and he shows full engagement in both settings. In the film, Dessau describes himself as a communist and compares the complicated creative processes involved in making art and in making socialism.


He shares his views on the importance of music education in schools: that understanding the process of composing will make someone a critical listener of music. He also argues that music should include “moments of tensions,” which “are necessary and serve a purpose […] in a time that’s not exactly soft. Art can’t be lazy. It’s demanding. It makes us think. And thinking is famously uncomfortable.”



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