Archive for Itzik Gottesman

“Vi nemt zikh tse mir azoy fil trern?” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2019 by yiddishsong

Vi nemt zikh tse mir azoy fil trern? / How did I get so many tears?
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW), recorded by Leybl Kahn 1954, NYC

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Zwiniacze 040Zvinyetchke (Zwiniacza), Bukovina (now Ukraine),
hometown of Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Another sad love song from the 1890s Bukovina repertoire of Lifshe Schaechter-Widman. This is not the only song in which she rhymes “shpekulirn” and “krapirn”, words which reflect her Austria-Hungarian upbringing. I have yet to find other versions or verses to the song.

Thanks to David Braun for help with this week’s post.

TRANSLITERATION

Vi nemt zikh tse mir azoy fil trern?
Tsi iz den mayn kop mit vaser fil?
Ven vet mayn veynen shoyn ofhern?
Ven vet mayn veytik shvaygn shtil?

Ikh heyb nor un mit dir tse shpekulirn
ver ikh krank un mid vi der toyt.
Oy, ver se shpilt a libe, der miz ying krapirn.
Geyn avek miz ikh fin der velt.

TRANSLATION

How did I get so many tears?
Is my head full of water?
When will my weeping cease?
When will my pain be silent.

When I just start to gamble with you,
I become deadly sick and tired.
O, whoever has a love affair will croak:
I have to leave this world.
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“Pitifers vab” – A Purim Play Song Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2019 by yiddishsong

Pitifers vab / Potiphar’s Wife: A Purim Play Song
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded by Leybl Kahn, 1954 NYC

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

800px-Rembrandt_-_Joseph_and_Potiphar's_wife

Potiphar’s wife and Joseph, by Rembrandt, 1634

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) remembered this song from a purim-shpil in her home town, Zvinyetshke, Bukovina. The “Mekhires yoysef” Purim pay about the selling of Joseph was so popular that  LSW term for the Purim players was “Yosef-shpiler”. This song sung by the Joseph character describes the attempted seduction by Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39-40). It also is a good example of the open, carnivalesque atmosphere of the Purim holiday when even sexual topics could be referred to in public.

TRANSLITERATION

Pitifers vab hot mikh ongeredt,
ikh zol mit ir shlufn.
ikh zol mit ir shlufn.
Kh’o mikh getin a bore
mitn yeytse-hore,
az Got vet mikh shtrufn.

Pitifers vab hot mikh ongeredt,
mir zoln shlufn beyde.
mir zoln shlufn beyde.
Kh’o mikh getin a bore
mitn yeytse-hore,
az Yitskhok iz mayn zeyde.

Pitifers vab hot mikh ongeredt,
Mir zoln zayn tsizamen
Mir zoln zayn tsizamen,
Kh’o mikh getin a bore
mitn yeytse-hore,
az Rukhl iz mayn mame.

TRANSLATION

Potiphar’s wife tried to convince me,
that I should sleep with her.
I struggled with the evil inclination –
and remembered – God would punish me.

Potiphar’s wife tried to convince me,
we should sleep together.
I struggled with the evil inclination
and remembered – Isaac was my grandfather.

Potiphar’s wife tried to convince me,
we should be together.
I struggled with the evil inclination
and remembered – Rachel was my mother. potifer1potifer2

Manger’s “Eynzam” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 6, 2019 by yiddishsong

Manger’s Eynzam/Lonesome (The Chernovitz Version)
Recorded and sung by Beyle Schachter-Gottesman, 1970s.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

February 21, 2019 marked fifty years since the passing of the Yiddish poet Itzik Manger. He was born in Chernovitz (then Austria-Hungry) in 1901 and died in Gedera, Israel in 1969.

MangerTo honor this date, I found a recording of Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (my mother) singing Manger’s song Eynzam (Keyner veyst nisht vos ikh vil) with a different melody than is most commonly sung. Unfortunately, she is interrupted before the end of the song, and does not complete it.

My mother told me that when she sang the song once at a gathering in New York, Yetta Bickel, wife of the critic Shloyme Bickel, said to her “that is the melody of the song that Itzik Manger himself had sung in Romania.”

Attached are scans of the words with the more commonly heard melody as found in the Mir trogn a gezang song collection compiled by Eleanor (Chana) Gordon Mlotek, NY 1972, pages 162-163. This includes transliteration and lyrics in Yiddish.

I have not yet found another recording of this Chernovitz version.

From Mlotek, Mir trogn a gezang, 1972:

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“Der dishvasher” Performed by Harris

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2019 by yiddishsong

Der dishvasher / The Dishwasher
A song by Herman Yablokoff sung by “Harris”.
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman in the apartment of Tevye (Tobias)  un Merke (Mary) Levine, Bronx, 1983.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

This 1930s song is by Yiddish actor and singer Herman Yablokoff (1903 – 1981)  His original version can be heard here:

The song can be heard more recently at the Milken Archive of Jewish Music in 2001, sung by Cantor Robert Abelson. That web page also has extensive notes, translations and transliterations of the original version.

The singer “Harris”  (I only remember him by this name) has dropped and changed a number of lines from Yablokoff’s original song. An amazing coincidence: the song sheet I found on line and have used here as an illustration has the name “Harris” written on the front! Perhaps it was his. His performance gives one a good sense of the intended pathos, and Yablokoff, writer of the classic song Papirosn (Cigarettes), was indeed the master singer of Yiddish pathos.

TRANSLITERATION

In a restoran hob ikh gezeyn
an altn man in kitshen shteyt.
un in der shtil
zingt er mit gefil:

Oy, ikh vash mit mayne shvakhe hent.
Ikh vash un vash, fardin ikh a por sent.
Fun fri biz shpeyt far a trikn shtikl broyt.
Ikh vash un beyt af zikh aleyn dem toyt.

Kh’bin a mul geveyn mit mentshn glaykh.
Gehat a heym, geveyzn raykh.
Itst bin ikh alt.
Keyner vil mikh nit.

Oy kinder fir, gebildet[er?] ir.
Di tokhter, shnir,
shikn mir tsum zin. Der zin er zugt
“Ikh ken gurnit tin”.

Oy, ikh vash mit mayne shvakhe hent.
Ikh vash un vash, fardin ikh a por sent.
Fun fri biz shpeyt far a trikn shtikl broyt.
Ikh vash un beyt, oy, af zikh aleyn deym toyt.

TRANSLATION

In a restaurant I once saw
an old man standing in the kitchen
and quietly
he sang with feeling:

“O, I wash with my weak hands.
I wash and wash and earn a few cents.
From early to late for a dry piece of bread.
I wash and pray for my own death.”

I once was like all other people;
had a home and was wealthy.
Now I am old
No one wants me.

O, I have educated four children.
My daughter and daughter-in-law send me to my son.
My son says, ” I can do nothing”.

O, I wash with my weak hands.
I wash and wash and earn a few cents.
From early to late for a dry piece of bread.
I wash and pray, o, for my own death

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“Shteyt in tol an alte mil” Performed by M.M. Shaffir

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2019 by yiddishsong

Shteyt in tol an alte mil / An Old Mill Stands in the Valley
Words by M. M. Shaffir,  Music -“adapted from a Romanian folk melody”
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Bronx

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The poet M. M. Shaffir (1909 -1988) was born in Suchava/Suceava (in Yiddish – “Shots”), Bukovina, Austria-Hungary; today – Romania. He immigrated to Montreal in 1939 and published 18 books of poetry. He was known for his love of Jewish folklore and his expert knowledge of the Yiddish language.

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 1.38.12 PM

M.M. Shaffir, Screen Shot from Cindy Marshall’s Film “A Life of Song: a Portrait of Ruth Rubin”

He was a close friend of the linguist, writer and editor Mordkhe Schaechter, and visited him in the Bronx several times.  At one of these occasions in 1974, the Sholem-Aleichem Cultural Center organized an event honoring his visit and afterward he sang three songs that he had composed at the Gottesman home across the street.

In this post we look at the first of those three songs, a doina-style melody Shteyt in tul an alte mil. He included the words and music in his collection Bay der kholem multer (Montreal, 1983) which are attached.

Several lines in his performance differ from the printed poem. On top of the musical notation, Shaffir wrote “loyt a Romeynishn folksmotiv” – “adapted from a Romanian folk melody.” To compare a Romanian traditional song to Shaffir’s composition Romanian music researcher Shaun Williams suggested listening to this Romanian doina sung by Maria Tanase:

Singer and scholar Michael Alpert also suggested listening to this Romanian “epic ballad”:

In Cindy Marshall’s film “A Life of Song: A Portrait of Ruth Rubin”, Shaffir can be seen in the episode where Rubin records singers in Montreal. The photo of him in this blog is taken from that scene. The entire film can be seen at YIVO’s Ruth Rubin Legacy website.

TRANSCRIPTION

1) Shteyt in tul an alte mil.
Veyn ikh dortn in der shtil.
Shteyen dortn verbes tsvey
Veyn ikh oys mayn harts far zey.

2) Ergets vayt in kelt un shney
iz gefaln mayn Andrei.
Ergets af a vistn feld.
Hot zayn harts zikh opgeshtelt.

3)Deym boyars tsvey sheyne zin
zenen nisht avek ahin.
Nor Andrei hot men opgeshikt
hot a koyl zayn harts fartsikt.

4) Hot zayn harts zikh opgeshtelt.
Ergets oyf a vistn feld.
Ergets vayt in kelt un shney
S’iz mir vind un s’iz mir vey.

TRANSLATION

An old mill stands in the field
where I cry there quietly.
Two willows are there
and I cry my heart out for them.

Somewhere distant in cold and snow
my Andrei has fallen.
Somewhere on a barren field
his heart stopped beating.

The boyar’s two handsome sons
did not go there.
Only Andrei was sent
and a bullet devoured his heart.

His heart stopped beating
somewhere on a barren field.
Somewhere far in cold and snow,
Woe is me, how it hurts!

From Bay der kholem multer by M.M. Shaffir (Montreal, 1983) pp. 72-73:
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“Royte epl, grine shotns” Performed by Jacob Gorelik

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2019 by yiddishsong

Royte epl, grine shotns / Red Apples, Green Shadows
Text by Zalmen Schneor, music by Samuel Bugatch
Sung by Jacob (Yankev) Gorelik
Recorded at a concert sponsored by the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, NYC, 1990.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The lyrics to this song were written by the Yiddish/Hebrew writer Zalmen Schneour (1886 – 1959). According to Jacob Gorelik’s introduction the music is by the composer Samuel (Shmuel) Bugatch (1898 – 1984). Here is the link to the YIVO Encyclopedia entry on Schneour whose most famous poem/song is Margaritkelekh (Daisies).

GorelikSingsJacob Gorelik at the Sholem Aleichem Cultural Center in the Bronx.

In Schneour’s volume of collected Yiddish poetry, 40 yor lider un poemen the poem is called Royte epl… and is dated to Vilna, 1906, one of his earliest poems (scan of that poem attached below).

In the sound archives of the National Library of Israel it is sung by Rivke Glazman, recorded by Gila Flam in 1999. Both Glazman and Gorelik were close to the American Poale-Zion (Labor Zionist) movement as was Bugatch.

Here is the link to Glazman’s performance (may require log-in) of Roye epl, grine shotns. Her interpetation differs markedly from Gorelik’s. Gorelik’s version, which we have transliterated and translated, differs, here and there, from the original.

On the life of Samuel Bugatch, see this link at the Milken Archive of Jewish Music. Among his most famous Yiddish compositions are Zog Maran and A zemer (Reb Motenyu).

TRANSLITERATION

Royte epl, grine shotns,
grozn – samet, himlen – zaydns…
Un a hilkhik taykh-gelekhter
gist zikh, trogt zikh fun der vaytns.

Kum mayn meydl, malekh sheyne!
Frukhtn reytsn, tsvaygn knakn…
Mir an epl, dir an epl
un a gneyvish kush in nakn.

Kum es klingen shoyn di letste,
shoyn di letste gleklekh-blumen;
mir a bliml, dir a bliml
un a drik tsum harts, a shtumen.

Kum… ikh veb do gold-khaloymes
fun der velt un ir troyer;
mir a kholem, dir a kholem
un a shtiln soyd [sod] in oyer.

TRANSLATION

Red apples, green shadows,
grass – velvet, skies – silk.
And a resounding river laughter
streams from far away.

Come my girl, beautiful angel!
The fruits tease us, the branches snap.
An apple for me, an apple for you
and a stealthy kiss on your neck.

Come, the last ringing –
The last bell-flowers [Lillies of the Valley? – IG]
A flower for me, a flower for you,
and a quiet press to the chest.

Come..I weave here golden dreams
of the world and its sadness;
A dream for me, a dream for you
and a quiet secret in your ear.

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“S’iz shvarts in himl” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2019 by yiddishsong

S’iz shvarts in himl / The Sky is Black by Avrom Goldfaden
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman.
Recorded by Leybl Kahn, Bronx 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman: 

This song about Rebecca in the Bible is a folklorized version of a song written by Avrom Goldfaden. It appears, text only, in his volume Dos yidele, where it is called “Rivkes toyt” (Rebecca’s Death, see scans below). Before the poem, Goldfaden gives this introduction:

In the midrash it says: When Rebecca died, they had to bury her at night so that Esau would not see and follow her to the burial. For if he did so, she would be cursed for having such a son. Jacob had run away to Horon and Isaac was too old. So no one accompanied her at her funeral. 

rebeccacoro“Rebecca at the Well”, painting by Corot, 1839

The midrash addresses the question – why was Rebecca’s death not mentioned in the Torah?

Goldfaden was a master of creating songs that resonated with Yiddish folklore. Though this song is about Biblical figures, it resembles a typical Yiddish orphan song. The second line “S’iz a pakhed af der gas aroystsugeyn” (It is a fright to go out in the street) is the exact same as the second line in the ballad “Fintser glitshik shpeyt ba der nakht“, the first song ever presented on Yiddish Song of the Week. And the last line “Elnt blaybsti du vi a shteyn” (Alone you remain like a stone) is found in other Yiddish orphan songs. In this case, biblical Jacob is the orphan. LSW, in her slow, emotional and mournful style, sings this song about Biblical characters as if it reflected a contemporary, local tragedy.

Two textual changes worth noting:

1) Instead of Goldfaden’s “A mes, a mes” א מת, א מת  (A corpse, a corpse), Lifshe sings “emes, emes” (true, true) אמת אמת. which just by combining the two words into one word, changes the meaning completely. This reminds us of the Golem legend in which “emes” אמת [truth] was written on the Golem’s forehead, but when he was no longer needed, the rabbi wiped off the first letter, the alef א and the Golem became dead מת

2) LSW sings “miter Rukhl” (mother Rachel) instead of “miter Rivke” (mother Rebecca). This can be explained, I believe, by the fact that the appellation “muter/miter Rukhl” is far more common than “muter Rivke”. I  did a Google Search in Yiddish to compare both and “muter Rukhl” won 453 – 65. The Yiddish folksinger would have found the phrase “muter Rivke” strange to the ear. In addition, the matriarch Rachel also had an unusual burial: she was buried far from home, on the road to Efrat, and therefore all alone, as Rebecca.

In the papers of the YIVO Ethnographic Commission there is a version of the song collected in the 1920s or 1930s, singer, collector and town unknown. There too the singer changed “a mes” to “emes” but sang Rivke not Rukhl.

TRANSLITERATION

S’iz shvarts in himl me zeyt nit kayn shtern.
S’iz a pakhid af der gas aroystsugeyn.
Shvartse volkn gisn heyse trern
un der vint, er bluzt mit eyn geveyn.

Emes, emes, ersht nisht lang geshtorbn.
Etlekhe mentshn geyen trit ba trit.
Me trugt deym toytn, ersht a frishn korbn:
indzer miter Rukhl, ver ken zi nit?

Yankl iz dekh fin der heym antlofn.
Er shluft dekh dort af deym altn shteyn.
Shtey of di yusem! Di host dekh shoyn keyn mame nisht.
Elnt blabsti du vi a shteyn.

TRANSLATION

The sky is black, no stars can be seen.
It’s a fright to go out in the street.
Black clouds gush hot tears
and the wind blows with a great cry.

True, true she died not long ago.
Several people walked step by step.
They carry the deceased, a fresh sacrifice:
our mother Rukhl, who doesn’t know her?

Jacob had run away from home.
He sleeps on that old rock.
Wake up you orphan! You no longer have a mother.
You remain alone like a stone.

siz shvarts 1siz shvarts 2

From Goldfadn’s Dos yidele, 1891:

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