Paul Dessau (1894-1979) was one of the most prominent composers in what was to become, in the middle of his career, East Germany. His music went through a number of phases, including serialism, neo-Classicism, a folk-like eclecticism, and neo-Romanticism. He will perhaps be best remembered for his collaborations with Bertolt Brecht and for his operas, which are rarely performed in the West, but the best of which, such as Einstein, deserve broad exposure. The works collected on this CD come primarily from late in his career, the earliest being a piano sonatina from 1955, and the rest dating from the '60s and '70s. These selections demonstrate the composer's versatility, ranging from the crowd-pleasing humor of the Bach-Variationen to the austerity of the neo-Classical sonatina to the spiky modernism of Sieben Sätze für Streichquartett. While each of the pieces holds some interest, none have the spark that ignited his most memorable work, which usually had a theatrical component. The selections are performed by a variety of conductors, orchestras, soloists, and ensembles, and the sound quality is variable. While it's never less than acceptable, it's rarely clean and vibrant.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Sonatina for piano|
|Sonatina for orchestra with piano obbligato|
|String Quartet No. 6 ("In 7 movements")|