Paul Dessau, Hagadah, Paris / Herblay 1934-1936

Source Description

Paul Dessau’s scenic oratorio “Hagadah” based on a text by Max Brod is the most important work of this Hamburg-born composer from the early period of his emigration to France, during which he recalled his Jewish roots and placed himself at the service of the Zionist movement. The traces of a complicated process of creation can also be found in the draft for the Moses aria in the fifth part of the work. Brod sent his drafts of the text from Prague to Paris and its environs, where Dessau had been living since 1933. The latter’s compositional drafts then were sent back to Prague for review. In the draft, the composer asked for a text supplement, which he later received by mail on the same sheet of paper. Despite the difficult working conditions, the oratorio was largely completed between 1934 and 1936, but the planned performance at the Jewish Cultural Association Jüdischer Kulturbund in Frankfurt am Main in 1936 fell through. When Dessau left France for the United States in 1939, he took the sketches, drafts and the score with him. However, the composer’s return to Germany in 1948 did not mark the end of his work’s odyssey. Once again it became a pawn in political upheavals, and even the history of its performance held some pitfalls.
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Recommended Citation

Paul Dessau, Hagadah, Paris / Herblay 1934-1936 (translated by Insa Kummer), edited in: Key Documents of German-Jewish History, <> [July 19, 2024].