Transforming Postwar East Germany through Song: Paul Dessau’s Lieder composed for Lin Jaldati, Lecture-Recital by Michael Hix, Baritone


The rise of East German musical culture after the devastation of WWII is an intriguing facet of contemporary European history. Of particular interest are the Jewish artists, including composer Paul Dessau (1896-1979) and Yiddish folk singer Lin Jaldati (1912-1988), who played significant roles in the musical life of the young nation in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Dessau, one of the GDR’s musical figureheads, returned from exile in 1949 in order to contribute to the cultural development of the new communist country. His eclectic compositional voice incorporates disparate styles and influences including agit-propaganda music, folk music, and modernist techniques. The Yiddish folk singer Lin Jaldati (1912-1988) functioned as an official icon of Jewish culture in the GDR. She served as a musical and cultural ambassador, performing programs of Yiddish folksongs and agit-prop songs of Eisler, Fürnberg and Dessau around the world.

This lecture recital presents Dessau’s lieder composed for the singer Lin Jaldati. These works, which include such songs as “An meine Landsleute,” “Höre Israel,” and “Tereszin mit Reisegruppe” often combine Dessau’s modernist musical language and extended piano techniques with a simplified, folk-inspired vocal melody suitable for Jaldati’s voice. The texts for these songs, including many settings of Bertolt Brecht, are poignant commentaries on the Holocaust and military conflicts of the 20th century. Examining the collaboration of Dessau and Jaldati provides a unique perspective on post-Holocaust music, identity politics, and Jewish culture in East Germany.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 15/04/2020

John Nix

John Nix is Professor of Voice and Voice Pedagogy at the University of Texas-San Antonio. His students have sung with the Santa Fe Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Chautauqua Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera Chorus. He was the 2006 Van Lawrence Award winner, has won grants from NIH and the Grammy Foundation, has published 36 articles, and edited or contributed to 5 books.

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