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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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Jewish Cabaret in Exile
I. The Great Ennui on the Eve of Exile
Edmund NICK (1891-1973) and Erich KÄSTNER (1899-1974)
Die möblierte Moral / The Well-Furnished Morals [1:48]
Das Wiegenlied väterlicherseite / The Father's Lullaby [4:49]
Die Elegie in Sachen Wald / Elegy in the Forest of Things [3:29]
Der Gesang vom verlorenen Sohn / The Song of the Lost Son [5:13]
Das Chanson für Hochwohlgeborene / The Chanson for Those Who Are Born Better [2:43]
Der Song 'man müßte wieder . . .'/ The Song 'Once Again One Must . . .' [3:59]
II. The Exiled Language — Yiddish Songs for Stage and Screen
Moses MILNER (1886-1953)
In Cheider / In the Cheder [5:46]
Mordechai GEBIRTIG (1877-1942)
Avreml, der Marvikher / Abe, the Pickpocket [5:12]
Abraham ELLSTEIN (1907-1963)
Tif vi di Nacht / Deep as the Night [3:07]
III. Transformation of Tradition
Hanns EISLER (1898-1962)
From Zeitungsausschnitte, Op. 11 (Newspaper Clippings)
Mariechen / Little Marie [1:49]
Kriegslied eines Kindes / A Child's Song of War [2:32]
IV. The Poetics of Exile: Songs by Hanns EISLER and Kurt TUCHOLSKY (1890-1935)
Heute zwischen Gestern und Morgen / Today between Yesterday and Tomorrow [2:35]
Bügerliche Wohltätigkeit / Civic Charity [3:01]
Zuckerbrot und Peitsche / Sweetbread and Whips [2:20]
An den deutschen Mond / To the German Moon [2:46]
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit / Unity and Justice and Freedom [1:53]
Couplet für die Bier-Abteilung / Couplet for the Beer Department [1:26]
V. Traumas of Inner Exile
Viktor ULLMANN (1898-1944)
Three Yiddish Songs (Brezulinka), op. 53 (1944)
Berjoskele / The Little Birch [4:18]
Margaritkele / Little Margaret [1:37]
Ich bin a Maydl in di Yorn / I'm Already a Young Woman [1:30]
VI. Nostalgia and Exile
Georg KREISLER (b. 1922)
Tauben vergiften / Poisoning Pigeons [2:46]
Hermann LEOPOLDI (1888-1959) and Robert KATSCHER (1894-1942)
Ich bin ein unverbesserlicher Optimist / I'm an Irrepressible Optimist [3:46]
Misha SPOLIANSKY (1898-1985) / Marcellus SCHIFFER (1892-1932)
Heute Nacht oder nie / Tonight or Never [3:22]
VII. Exile in Reprise
Friedrich HOLLÄNDER (1896-1976):
on Stage and Film
Marianka [2:32]
Wenn der Mond, wenn der Mond . . . / If the Moon, If the Moon . . . Lyrics by Theobald Tiger (Kurt Tucholsky) [3:00]
New Budapest Orpheum Society
rec. 2-4 April 2008, Fay and Daniel Levin Performance Studio, WFMT, Chicago
CEDILLE CDR 90000 110 [78:58]
Experience Classicsonline

This is a sumptuous production. Following on from the 2 CD 'Dancing on the Edge of a Volcano' album, this new recording from the New Budapest Orpheum Society is housed in a double jewel case to cope with the 64 page booklet included. Half of this is taken up with all song texts in the original languages of German and Yiddish. All of the songs are sung in the original languages, but English translations are provided. The rest covers historical context, tradition, themes and content, language and musical forms. The composers and authors lives are referred to more in passing than specifically described in detail, but there is enough information on the many unfamiliar names to give some idea of their place in this rich vein of musical discovery.

What does Jewish Cabaret sound like? This is a different animal to the 'klezmer' phenomenon which exists around feasts and dancing, themes such as the traditions of matchmaking, the festivals of weddings, individual significant characters such as the Rabbi, the naive fathers or the frightening mother-in-law, or such party themes such as food and the results of drinking. The cabaret songs in this programme have something of a relationship with certain types of 'salon' music from the early years of the 20th century, but frequently comment on life in exile, poking satirical fun at authority and the woes of society. As further reference, they can in some ways be set against more familiar but similar sounding works such as Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera. There is a certain amount of sentimental nostalgia in these songs, but any such heartfelt expression is balanced with fortitude, and is frequently transformed within the duration of the song into one or other kind of more audience-pleasing humour. With examples such as ballad, tango and other typical strophic forms of song, the compact but effective instrumentation of the arrangements provide a kind of directness which has great clarity, sometimes to the point of almost belligerent confrontation. The combination of romantic musical setting and texts which pull no punches create a powerful impression in the section under The Poetics of Exile section with the reference to Franz Lehár in Zuckerbrot und Peitsche, 'Sweetbread and Whips', and the tango lampoon of ignorance in Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit, 'Unity and Justice and Freedom', with lines such as 'Stupid is stupid, and pills don't help.... German is German, and pills don't help.'

Another highlight of the disc is the pair of songs from Zeitungsausschnitte or Newspaper Clippings by Hans Eisler, with their grim comment on human frailty and the futility of war. Victor Ullman's Three Yiddish Songs are also superbly crafted but based on the more tenderly traditional themes of love and longings. With only piano accompaniment they provide a bit of a break from the percussion in most of the other songs. I had to think of Tom Lehrer with Georg Kreisler's Poisoning Pigeons. On the crassest of Viennese waltzes, the text comes very close to Lehrer's, while the music has more affinity with his Alma.

There is plenty of fun to be had from the upbeat opposites of ein unverbesserlicher optimist, and in a sense this figure stands as exemplar for the entire collection: the pains of daily life against a background of tragedy, expressed in an irrepressible tradition of narrative and communal experience. The New Budapest Orpheum Society is ensemble-in-residence at the University of Chicago, and its artistic director Philip V. Bohlman is engaged in serious research, rescuing and reconstructing this Jewish cabaret music and then bringing it vibrantly to life with an excellent ensemble; spreading the word with this fine recording. Such efforts deserve great success - a fine production.

Dominy Clements

 


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