Paul Abraham


Born: November 2, 1892; Apatin   Died: May 9, 1960; Hamburg, Germany  
Born in Hungary as Pál Ábrahám, Abraham was educated at the Budapest Academy of Music and, upon his graduation in 1916, worked to establish himself as a composer of serious art music. His works were heard at major European music festivals, and he gained a reputation as a choral conductor in the world of Hungarian liturgical music. By chance, Abraham assumed the post of conductor of the Budapest Operetta Theater in 1927. With the dawn of European Read more sound film in 1929 Abraham began scoring German and Hungarian musical films, beginning with Melodie des Herzens (1929, starring Dita Parlo).

Abraham achieved his first success with Viktoria und ihr Husar (1930); its charming nonsense song "Mausie" became greatly popular. The film's story of a German war widow who discovers her husband alive after she has married a rich American touched a strong responsive chord with the German public. Abraham joined forces with librettist Alfred Grünwald for his next hit show, Die Blume von Hawaii (1931). This was a story about a German sailor who falls for a Hawaiian maid. Set in an exotic locale and spiked with liberal doses of "continental jazz," it was a huge success -- but attracted unfavorable attention from the emerging National Socialist regime. Abraham scored his final hit with Ball im Savoy (1932), which was made into an English-language musical in Britain in 1936. All of Abraham's popular operettas were made into films, sometimes starring Abraham's own discovery, teenage singing sensation Marta Eggerth (who later collected a few Hollywood successes). Abraham's greatest independent triumph in the German film industry was Die Privatsekretärin (1931) starring Renate Müller.

When the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, Abraham, as the Jewish author of the degenerate Die Blume von Hawaii, was immediately targeted for expulsion. Abraham had led a popular dance band on German phonograph records in previous years; but when Hitler took charge, Abraham's entire catalog was deleted and his published music banned. Fleeing to Hungary, he left the key to a cabinet containing the manuscripts of some 300 unpublished melodies for safekeeping with his butler. The butler later made liberal use of the manuscripts, selling the tunes to less talented Nazi composers. In Vienna and Hungary, Abraham and Alfred Grünwald continued to produce operettas, the last being Roxy und ihr Wunderteam (1937), but none matched the success of the earlier productions. After the Anschluss, Abraham fled to France and then Cuba.

Abraham's years in Cuba are obscure. However, there is evidence that he worked in the Cuban film industry during this time. Abraham collected an arranging credit on the Hollywood musical Holiday in Mexico (1946), which was filmed mostly in Cuba. Abraham moved to New York after the war, but apparently never worked again. In postwar Germany, Abraham's music enjoyed a renewal of popularity. After word reached Germany that the composer was destitute and living in a mental institution, a Paul Abraham Society was founded in Hamburg; in 1956 the group succeeded in raising the funds to transport him from New York. By this time, Abraham's illness was so advanced that he was unable to compose. Abraham died on the operating table during an experimental procedure intended to restore his abilities.

We may never see all of Abraham's music revived, for the Nazis destroyed much of it. But his three most popular titles, Viktoria, Die Blume von Hawaii and Ball im Savoy, maintain their places in the repertoire of German-speaking opera houses. Toward the end of the twentieth century, Abraham's German movie musicals have also been revived to considerable acclaim, with some commentators stating that they are among the best German musical films of any period. Read less
Browse 1-7 of 7 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Abraham: Viktoria und ihr Husar / Schellenberger, Levi, Morbisch Festival Orchestra
    Label: Oehms   Catalog: 454 Release Date: 10/14/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Paul Abraham
    Performer:  Tibor Szolnoki,  Rui Dos Santos,  Verena Barth-Jurca,  Peter Lesiak  ... 
    Conductor:  David Levi
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mörbisch Festival Orchestra,  Mörbisch Festival Choir
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  • 2.
    As Dreams Fall Apart / New Budapest Orpheum Society
    Label: Cedille Records   Catalog: 151 Release Date: 10/14/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Abraham Ellstein,  Arnold Perlmutter,  Emmerich Kálmán  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Budapest Orpheum Society
    CD: $17.99
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  • 3.
    You Mean the World to Me / Kaufmann
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 308771 Release Date: 09/16/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Lehár,  Robert Stolz,  Hans May,  Mischa Spoliansky  ... 
    Performer:  Jonas Kaufmann,  Julia Kleiter
    Conductor:  Jochen Rieder
    CD: $14.99
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  • 4.
    Operettenmelodien - Abraham, Schröder / Gruber, Vienna State Opera C & O
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 75548 Release Date: 01/07/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Paul Abraham,  Friedrich Schröder
    Performer:  Kurt Equiluz,  Horst Winter,  Hilde Brauner,  Toni Niessner  ... 
    Conductor:  Joseph Leo Gruber
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Orchestra,  Vienna State Opera Chorus
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  • 5.
    A Tribute To The Comedian Harmonists / The King's Singers
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 47677 Release Date: 04/24/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  N. Doughaby,  Vincent Youmans,  Ludwig Smidseder,  Rudolf Friml  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Singers
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 6.
    Operettengala / Jochen Kowalski
    Label: Capriccio Records   Catalog: 10835 Release Date: 11/02/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Paul Lincke,  Franz Lehár,  Robert Stolz,  Paul Abraham  ... 
    Performer:  Jochen Kowalski
    Conductor:  Heinz Fricke
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Radio Symphony Orchestra
    CD: $16.99
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  • 7.
    Bernd Weikl - Operetta Recital
    Label: Orfeo   Catalog: 77831 Release Date: 04/20/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Carl Zeller,  Johann Strauss Jr.,  Oscar Straus,  Robert Stolz  ... 
    Performer:  Bernd Weikl
    Conductor:  Kurt Eichhorn
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Austrian Radio Chorus
    CD: $22.49
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