As Dreams Fall Apart: The Golden Age of Jewish Stage and Film Music 1925-55
New Budapest Orpheum Society/Philip Bohlman (artistic director)
rec. March 2014, WFMT Chicago
Texts and translations included CEDILLE RECORDS CDR90000151 [44:32 + 51:38]
This is the kind of thing Cedille does conspicuously well. It’s a specialised twofer that explores Jewish stage and film music in the three decades between 1925 and 1955, presenting them in what one should I suppose call historically informed style. Profusely annotated and full of valuable detailed information and sporting full texts and translations, the booklet cements the valuable nature of the undertaking and will provide informed reading. One valuable avenue to explore is the nexus between stage and film, and the journey by which stage music became absorbed into the film medium.
Many of the elements explored enshrine elements of modernism, but by means not all do. Die koschere Mischpoche, a Viennese broadside ca.1900, takes things back to the turn of the century, a generation before the stated remit but as a popular hangover there’s merit in its appearance not least in this very peppy performance complete with woodblocks. Maz’l’s vocal reflects older Yiddish traditions of music-making whilst the subtly underpinning accordion offers mobile support in Dos pintele Yid. It’s good to find music from the controversial Die Herzogin von Chicago by Emmerich Kálmán. It’s taken at a sprightly lick in this version, whilst yearning romanticism is the watchword for Tomorrow from The Constant Nymph: both are well sung by Julia Bentley.
One of the major figures in Vienna’s Jewish life is a man who is to a large extent overlooked these days, Hermann Leopoldi. His satiric and dream-world lyrics provide poignant testimony to the encircling political realities of the day; he is the charter of Viennese descent but he’s also the witty conduit by which the singer can sing a hymn of satiric praise to cash – with a particularly Jazzy piano solo included – in Money macht froh!
The music in this twofer is divided into paragraphs; Dreams from Yesterday and Tomorrow; Between Traum and Trauma (ouch!); Rauschtraum and so on. There’s a lot of Trauming, a little elegy, a bit of daydreaming and some Dystopia. These are handy hooks for the music of luminaries such as Korngold, Leo Strauss, Ullmann and Eisler whether it includes the modish travelogue of Leopoldi’s Café Brasil or the Zigeuner vogue in the same composer’s Wenn der Ungar lustig ist !
Whilst Shmulowitz’s A Brivele der mam’n shows how much Jewish cabaret and stage vernacular infused American popular music, Thomashefsky’s Erlekh zayn is much more explicitly Yiddish. Some of the best-known pieces in the collection are Eisler’s songs from Hollywood Liederbuch but even more international cachet arrives in the shape of Holländer’s songs for Billy Wilder’s 1948 film A Foreign Affair.
The variety of songs to be encountered here means that others are involved mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley, who has already been mentioned, baritone Stewart Figa and Philip Bohlman, the artistic director who also functions as narrator.
The performances are excellent and the accompanying instruments – piano, violin, percussion, bass and accordion – bring colour and rhythmic flair to the songs. This ensemble continues to produce excellently realised projects.
Contents CD1 On the Shores of Utopia
Die koschere Mischpoche (Viennese broadside ca.1900) Instrumental, arr. Levinson (2:24)
Dos pintele Yid (2:29) Dreams from Yesterday and Tomorrow
Wir Ladies aus Amerika (from Die Herzogin von Chicago, 1928) (3:02)
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD
Tomorrow (from The Constant Nymph, 1943) (4:20)
Kann nicht küssen ohne Liebe (from Die Blume von Hawai‘i, 1931) (3:22) Dreamworlds
Die Novaks aus Prag (3:56): Composers’ Revolution in Heaven (4:44):
Money macht froh! (3:59) Between Traum and Trauma
Aus der Familie der Sträusse (5:55)
Solo-Cantata: Immer inmitten . . . (2:34): Vor der Ewigkeit (4:21) CD2 Rauschtraum
Café Brasil (2:54): I bin a stiller Zecher (4:15): Wenn der Ungar lustig ist . . ! (4:56) Viennese Träumerei
In einem kleinen Café in Hernals (3:06): Wo der Teufel gute Nacht sagt (3:49)
Dreams of Stardom
A Brivele der mam’n (2:39)
Erlekh zayn (3:11) Hollywood Elegy
Five Songs from Hollywood Liederbuch (5:39): Unter den grünen Pfefferbäumen/Under the Green Pepper Trees (1:05): Die Stadt ist nach den Engeln genannt/The City Is Named after the Angels (1:13): Jeden Morgen, mein Brot zu verdienen/In Order To Earn My Daily Bread Each Morning (1:11): Diese Stadt hat mich belehrt/This City Taught Me (1:14): In den Hügeln wird Gold gefunden/Gold Is Found in the Hills (0:57)
L’automne californien (2:42) Daydreams/Future Dreams
Ikh zing (3:25)
From the Ruins of Dystopia
from Wilder’s A Foreign Affair (1948): Black Market (4:13): Illusions (3:37): The Ruins of Berlin (2:34)