Leon Jessel Allemagne Leon Jessel, or Léon Jessel (January 22, 1871 ? January 4, 1942) was a German composer of operettas. Today he is best known internationally as the composer of the popular jaunty march "The Parade of the Tin Soldiers," also known as "The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.' Jessel was a prolific composer who wrote many light orchestral pieces, piano pieces, songs, waltzes, mazurkas, marches, choruses, and other salon music. He achieved considerable acclaim with a number of his operettas ? in particular Schwarzwaldmädel (Black Forest Girl), which remains popular to this day.
Because Jessel was a Jew by birth (he converted to Christianity at the age of 23), with the rise of Nazism in the late 1920s, Jessel's composing virtually came to an end, and his musical works, which had been very popular, were suppressed and nearly forgotten.
Although his quite musical parents wished him to become a merchant or businessman, Jessel was instead drawn to become a musician, and left school at the age of 17 to pursue music and musical theater. After studying with various teachers between 1888 and 1891, Jessel became a conductor, music director, chorus master, bandmaster, and theater conductor working in many German cities. Beginning in 1892, these jobs included the position of Kapellmeister in cities which included Mulheim an der Ruhr, Freiberg, Kiel, Stettin, Chemnitz, and Neustrelitz. He finally settled in Lübeck, where he was Kapellmeister at the Wilhelm Theater from 1899 to 1905, whereupon he became director of the Lübeck Liedertafel (men's singing group) association. While in Lübeck Jessel composed numerous choral works, operettas, and character pieces.
In 1911 Jessel moved to Berlin, where he came into his own and made a name for himself ? his 1913 operetta Die beiden Husaren (The Two Hussars) garnered quite a bit of attention. Jessel continued to compose many operettas and Singspiel operas, most of which premiered in Berlin. In 1915 Jessel also founded and launched the early GEMA, a German performance rights organization.
Jessel's biggest success was the operetta Schwarzwaldmädel (Black Forest Girl), which premiered at the Komische Oper in Berlin in August 1917. The opera's touching libretto, appealing melodies, and elegant instrumentation proved immensely popular, and it ran in Berlin for 900 performances, and within the next 10 years was performed approximately 6,000 times in Germany and abroad. Schwarzwaldmädel has been recorded numerous times over many decades, and has been filmed and televised numerous times as well. Jessel also had a major success with his 1921 operetta Die Postmeisterin (The Postmistress), and in total he wrote nearly two dozen operettas.