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Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn. Great Songs of the Yiddish Stage - Volume 2
Sholom SECUNDA (1894-1974)

Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn [2.49]
Dos yidische lid [9.53]
Mayn yidishe meydle [2.51]
Skrip klezmerl, skripe [4.03]
Alexander OLSHANETSKY (1892-1946)

Ikh hob dikh tsufil lib [5.12]
Eyn kuk af dir [3.51]
Glik [2.35]
A gute heym [3.41]
Nu, zog mir shoyn ven [4.11]
Unter beymer [3.09]
Ikh bin farlibt [4.13]
Louis GILROD (1879-1930)

A malke af peysekh [2.50]
Arnold PERLMUTTER (1859-1953) and Herman WOHL (1877-1936)

Lebn zol kolumbus [1.56]
Ilia TRILLING (1895-1947)

Mit dir in eynem [3.25]
Herman WOHL (1877-1936)

Slutsk [3.36]
Samet un zayd [6.37]

Hundl mitn shtrudl [2.55]
Simon Spiro (tenor)
Amy Goldstein (soprano)
Bruce Adler (tenor)
Robert Abelson (baritone)
Joanne Borts (mezzo)
Robert Bloch (tenor)
Benzion Miller (tenor)
David Krakauer (clarinet)
Vienna Chamber Orchestra/Elli Jaffe
Barcelona Symphony/National Orchestra of Catalonia
Recorded 2000-01
NAXOS MILKEN ARCHIVE 8.559432 [68.45]

Review of Volume One

This is the second volume of the Naxos-Milken Archive’s series devoted to songs of the Yiddish stage. Two of the leading composers were Sholom Secunda and Alexander Olshanetsky, both born in the Ukraine within a couple of years of each other. Secunda emigrated to America in 1907 and Olshanetsky followed much later in 1922. Secunda wasn’t an admirer of Gershwin but took lessons from Bloch, whereas Olshanetsky tended to popularise melodic romances in his music. Of the other composers whose works are presented here Louis Gilrod was another Ukraine-born musician though his family had emigrated to America long before even Secunda’s. Herman Wohl was, like the eternal emigrant Joseph Roth, a Galician; Ilia Trilling was German (from Elberfield).

The selections here are Second Avenue ones – products of the American Yiddish music theatre – or derived from films, radio and vaudeville. Whilst the products of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, such as Wohl, would have taken naturally to Viennese operetta in effect all of the composers took the form as their musical nutrient, spicing it with Eastern European, Ukrainian or gypsy styles.

It’s been necessary to orchestrate these songs since in the vast majority of cases the orchestrations no longer survive if indeed they ever existed (they certainly wouldn’t in the case of small band works). All the orchestrations have been based on sound scholarly research and to my ears they sound just right.

Whether exuberant and yearning, uplifting or mournful these songs captivated their listeners – and even reached out beyond the confines of Jewish theatre. The title track for instance is best known in its souped up and big band form as Bei Mir Bist Du Schon and was a huge hit for the Andrews Sisters (they of the sexy legs and Bugle Boy fame). In the laments we can hear the fruity vibrato of Amy Goldstein – try Ikh hob dikh tsufil lib and the yearning tenor of Simon Spiro can be heard duetting with her in Eyn kuk af dir, one of Olshanetsky’s typically wistful numbers - or try his strong string-based romanticism in Nu, zog mir shoyn ven.

There’s fiddle and klezmer in A malke af peysekh complete with avuncular parlando and a sort of Jewish can-can in Lebn zol kolumbus. Benzion Miller, who has appeared in this series before, reprises his cantorial vocal chords in Secunda’s Dos yidishe lid and splendidly florid he is too, summoning up the departed Mordecai Hirshman himself (who first recorded it incidentally). With coloratura and dramatic theatricality this is a mini-scena. There are also lighter moments – try the cornball vaudeville Hudl mitn shtrudl (you can guess what it means) with its klezmer clarinet played by David Krakauer, a veritable star of the genre. Then there is the genuinely moving and slow Olshanetsky song Unter beymer, one of the highlights of the disc, and eloquently sung by Spiro and the frolics of the last track with its scraping fiddle and high jinx.

The notes are extensive and panoramic in their sweep not least with regard to the shows from which these songs derive and the performances are all effervescent – and that includes Bruce Adler, Robert Abelson and Robert Bloch who have slightly less to do but do it splendidly.

Jonathan Woolf



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