Di Sheyne Milnerin - Schubert’s cycle of love forlorn retold in Yiddish song
Mark WARSCHAWSKY (1848 – 1907) arr. Janot S. ROSKIN (1884 – 1946), Op. 11 No. 12
1. Dem milners trern (The miller’s tears) [2:02]
Mordechai GEBIRTIG (1877 – 1942) arr. Sholom SECUNDA (1894 – 1974)
2. Reyzele [1:43]
Ilia TRILLING (1895 – 1947)
3. Du shaynst vi di zun (You shine like the sun) [3:01]
4. Der nayer sher (The new dance) [1:10]
Nira CHEN (b. 1924) arr. Alexander KNAPP (?)
5. Dodi li (My beloved is mine) [4:06]
Traditional arr. Alexander KNAPP
6. Tumba [1:39]
Traditional arr. Janot S. ROSKIN Op. 14 No. 10
7. Klipp klapp! (Tip tap!) [4:58]
Traditional arr. Alexander KNAPP
8. Bistu mit mir broygez (Are you angry with me?) [3:11]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797 – 1828) (translation of Am Feierabend from Die schöne Müllerin, D 795 (1823)
9. Nokh der arbet (After work) [2:36]
Joseph M. RUMSHINSKY (1879 – 1956) arr. Paul HENNING (?)
10. Shma yisroel (Hear, O Israel) [3:53]
Alexander KNAPP
11. Himen (Anthem) [4:27]
Traditional arr. Janot S. ROSKIN Op. 12 No. 15
12. A sheyn lid hob ikh gezungen (I have sung a beautiful song) [2:15]
Traditional arr. Alexander KNAPP
13. Dem gonefs yikhes (The thief’s genealogy) [2:59]
14. Tsvey taybelekh (Two doves) [5:34]
15. Vu iz dos gesele (Where is the little street?) [3:34]
Lazar WEINER (1897 – 1982) Six Yiddish Art Songs, No. 3
16. A gebet (A plea) [1:49]
Alexander OLSHANETSKY (1892 – 1946)
17. Ikh hob dikh tsufil lib (I love you too much) [2:48]
Israel SCHERMANN (?) Op. 1 No. 3
18. Ongenumen zikh mit tsar (Filled with misery) [2:16]
Traditional arr. Alexander KNAPP
19. Es drimlen di lodns (The shutters are dozing) [2:26]
Ben YOMEN (1901 – 1970) arr. Alexander KNAPP
20. Di zun vet aruntergeyn (The sun is setting) [4:13]
Mark Glanville (bass-baritone), Alexander Knapp (piano)
rec. 26-27 June 2011. Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
‘Yiddish (literally "Jewish") is a High German language of Ashkenazi Jewish origin, spoken in many parts of the world. It developed as a fusion of Hebrew and Aramaic into German dialects with the infusion of Slavic and traces of Romance languages. It is written in the Hebrew alphabet ... Yiddish is written and spoken in many Orthodox Jewish communities around the world, although there are also a number of Orthodox Jews who do not know Yiddish. It is a home language in most Hasidic communities, where it is the first language learned in childhood, used in schools and in many social settings. Yiddish is also the academic language of the study of the Talmud according to the tradition of the Lithuanian yeshivas.’ (Wikipedia). The number of yiddish speakers in the world today is estimated at 1.8 million, while around 11 million speak it as a second language.
A couple of years ago Mark Glanville and Alexander Knapp presented A Yiddish Winterreise, focusing on the Holocaust. In this new programme it is also Schubert and Müller that form the model, a cycle of unrequited love like Die schöne Müllerin. While the miller in the Schubert-Müller cycle is a young man, this hero is an older man and, as Glanville and Knapp say in their notes, ‘with more than a little of Don Quixote about him’. Whether he actually meets Reyzele, the girl he is in love with, or just dreams about her, is unclear but the pain when he is rejected is just as strong as that of Schubert miller’s.
The songs are from the Yiddish tradition, some of them from named composers, some are traditional songs and many of them have been arranged by Alexander Knapp, whose accompaniments are both dexterous and harmonically daring. Then there is one reference to Schubert, whose Am Feierabend is inserted in the middle of the cycle, translated into Yiddish by Heather Valencia.
While in the Schubert cycle there is a strong stylistic coherence, Di Sheyne Milnerin is variegated, spanning from 1930s popular songs via jazz rhythms and dance tunes to hymns and art songs. The first song, The miller’s tears, where the old man complains of the passing years, has a recurrent phrase: The wheels turn, the years pass. In the piano accompaniment we hear the wheels and time implacably rolling on, a little like the spinning-wheel in Gretchen am Spinnrade or the horse galloping in Erlkönig. Then we meet him below Reyzele’s window, jolly and optimistic and a catchy melody. You shine like the sun oozes innocent love. Both text and melody could have been culled from the happy end of a film of the 1930s. In My beloved is mine there is a first sign that the idyll is threatened, though the words are as optimistic as ever the dissonances tell a different tale. Then there is the expected progression: though interspersed with some wry humour the songs depict the miller’s disappointment. He finds that the beloved Reyzele was false, he is sad and resigned and he loses hope. ‘Everything is just a dream’ and he wants to die. As we hear in the last song ‘The sun is setting behind the hill. / The night will come and sing a lullaby / Over eyes that are already falling / To sleep in eternal rest.’
This is all as heart-rending as the Schubert cycle and the music, though completely new to me, conveys the feelings just as graphically as Schubert’s does. Mark Glanville’s somewhat gritty bass-baritone is powerful and expressive and his straightforward approach is well attuned to the contents of the cycle. He is excellently supported by Alexander Knapp, whose playing is flexible and sensitive. I only wish the recording balance had been more generous to the singer. As it is, one gets the feeling that the piano is at the front of the stage while Mark Glanville is standing behind it.
This is a fascinating issue and I urge readers to give it a try. It is music off the beaten track, but that’s where one often makes the real discoveries.
Göran Forsling
Fascinating. Give it a try. Off the beaten track, but that’s where one often makes the real discoveries.