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Three Yiddish Songs to the tune of the Italian pop classic “Return to Sorrento”

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2019 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In this posting, we examine three Yiddish Songs set to the tune of the Italian pop classic Return to Sorrento:

1) Fil gelitn hob ikh miter sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by
Leybl Kahn
2) Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets sung by Reyzl Stalnicovitz, and recorded by Itzik Gottesman in Mexico City, 1988.
3) Sore-Yente a song found in Meyer Noy’s collection at the National Library in Jerusalem, and performed by Sharon Bernstein, piano and vocal, and Willy Schwarz on accordion, Florence, Italy 2001.

sorrento

This week we highlight three Yiddish songs that use the melody of an Italian pop classic Torna a Surriento (Return to Sorrento) music by Ernesto De Curtis (1875 – 1937), copyright 1905. The original lyrics were by his cousin Giambattista De Curtis. Here is a Dean Martin recording of the Italian song which we chose because it has a translation of the Italian lyrics (click here to listen).

There are even more Yiddish songs that use this melody, among them: in 1933 after the murder of Haim Arlosoroff in Tel-Aviv, a song was composed to this melody and a song sheet was published (A tragisher mord in Tel-Aviv/A Tragic Death in Tel Aviv). A song about the Polish Jewish strongman Zishe Breitbard (1883 – 1925) also uses a version of the melody (see Mlotek, Songs of the Generations, page 147-148 ).

Thanks this week to Aida Stalnicovitz Vda Fridman and Sharon Bernstein.

1) Fil gelitn hob ikh miter (I Have Suffered Much Mother) 
Performance by Lifshe Schaechter Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn in NYC.

Lifshe introduces the song by saying “S’iz a lidl vus me hot gezingen in der ershter milkhume (It’s a song that was sung in the First World War).” The four verses are entirely in the mother’s voice, apparently addressed to her mother, as indicated in the first line.

TRANSLITERATION
Fil gelitn hob ikh miter
bay der as[ent]irung fun mayn kind.
Gearbet hob ikh shver in biter
Far vus lad ikh nokh atsind.?

Iz mayn zin nokh mayn nekhome
Vi iz er fin mir avek?
Afarshundn iz er in der milkhume.
Un a seykhl in un a tsvek.

Ziser Got ikh beyt ba dir
loz mikh nokh a nes gesheyn.
Eyder eykh vel shtarbn
Vil eykh mayn kind nokh eyn mol zeyn.

Dentsmult vel ikh riyik shtarbn.
Got tsi dir keyn tanes hubn.
Loz mayn kind khotsh eyn mul mir
nokh, “mamenyu” zugn.

TRANSLATION
Much have I suffered mother,
from the drafting of my child.
I worked hard and bitter.
Why do I still suffer?

My son is still my comfort
Where did he go and leave me?
Disappeared into the war,
for no logic, for no reason,

Dear God I pray to you
May another miracle take place.
Before I die,
I want to see my son once more.

Then I would calmly die
God, have no complaints to you..
Let my child say to me –
just once more “my mother dear”.

Fil Gelitn

2) Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter)
Performance by Reyzl Stalnicovitz, recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Mexico City, 1988.

StalnicovitzPhotoReyzl Stalnicovitz, photo by Itzik Gottesman

Reyzl Stalnicovitz was born in 1935 in Xalapa, district of Vera Cruz, Mexico. She was a teacher at the I. L. Peretz shul (“Di naye yidishe shul”) in Mexico City, and passed away in  1996.

Of the three songs presented in this post, this song was by far the most popular and has been printed in several collections and can be found in the field recordings of Ben Stonehill, Sarah Benjamin and at the National Library in Israel. As for commercial recordings: Lea Szlanger sings it on her CD Lea Szlanger In Song.

The text was originally a thirteen verse poem by Zusman Segalovitch (1884 – 1949) that first appeared in the periodical Der shtrahl, Volume one, #2 Warsaw, 1910 (see below). There it was titled Dem shoykhets tokhter: balade (The shoykhet’s daughter: ballad) followed by the inscription – Dos hobn kinder in shtetl dertseylt (This Was Told by Children in Town).

The plot – Reyzl wants to marry Motl but the father, a shoykhet (kosher slaughterer) boils with anger as she combs her hair because she refuses the match he made. He then cuts her golden locks. Then it gets “weird”: she swims into the Vistula (Yiddish = Vaysl) river and builds a little shelter for herself along the bank until her hair locks grow again.
Stalnicovch sings four verses. This ballad was almost always shortened when sung. For example in the Arbeter Ring’s extremely popular songbook Lomir zingen (1939, NY), only five verses are printed (that scanned version, words and music, are attached below).

TRANSCRIPTION
Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets.
Zi hot a yunge harts on zorgn.
Zi tants un freyt zikh mit ir lebn.
Vi a shvalb mitn frimorgn.

Es bakheynen ir di oygn
Es bakreynen ir di lokn.
Un a shtoltse iz zi shtendik.
Zi vet far keynem zikh nit beygn.

Un ir tate iz a frumer
un dertsu a groyser kaysn.
Ven di tokhter kemt di lokn
Heybt er on di lipn baysn .

Un der tate veyst nokh gornisht
Vos in shtetl veysn ale:
Az Reyzl hot shoyn a khosn.
Un me ruft ir Motls kale.

TRANSLATION
Beautiful is the shoykhet’s daughter Reyzl
She has a young heart with no worries.
She dances and is joyful with her life
as a swallow is with the morning.

Her eyes make her pretty
Her locks are a crown on her;
And she is always proud.
She will bow for no one.

Her father is religious
and also quick to anger.
When he combs her locks,
he starts to bite his lips.

And her father doesn’t know anything
what everyone knows in town:
that Reyzl has a groom,
and they call her Motl’s bride.

Spoken (transliteration):
Dos iz vos ikh gedenk. Ober di mame flegt mir dertseyln az s’iz geven epes a gantse tragedye, vayl der tate hot nisht gevolt az zi zol khasene hobn. Vayl er iz geven a sotsyalist, a yingl, un er iz geven a frumer yid. Er hot gevolt zi zol khasene hobn mit a yeshiva bokher. Un zi’s antlofn mitn bokher.

Spoken (translation):
That’s what I remember. But the mother used to tell me that it was a whole tragedy because the father did not want her to get married. Because he (the groom) was a socialist boy and he (the father) wanted him to marry a Yeshiva student. And she ran away with the boy.

Sheyn iz Reyzele

3) Sore-Yente
Performance by Cantor Sharon Bernstein, Florence, 2001 (accompanied by Willy Schwarz on accordion)

The third song that uses the melody of Sorrienta is Sore-Yente – a word play on the original Italian title. This was collected by Meir Noy in Israel in 1962 from Shmuel Ben-Zorekh, who learned it from an immigrant from Minsk. A scan of Meir Noy’s original notation, words and music are attached below.

TRANSLITERATION
Mit a nign fun akdomes
shteyt baym fentster Yosl-Monish,
Far der sheyner Sore-Yente
Zingt er dort tsu ir a lid:

Kum tsu mir mayn sheynes benken,
Eybik vel ikh dikh gedenken.
Kh’vel mayn lebn far dir shenken.
Vayl ikh bin in dir farlibt.

Azoy lang iz er geshtanen
vi der groyser pipernoter
un zi hert im vi der koter
un geyt derbay af gikh avek.

TRANSLATION
With a melody from Akdometh
stands at the window Yosl-Monish
For the beautiful Sore-Yente
there, he sings this song:

Come to me my longed for beauty
I will long for you eternally.
I will give you my life
For I am in love with you.

He stood there for so long
like a giant dragon.
She totally ignores him
And walks quickly by him.

Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter) by Zusman Segalovitch (1884 – 1949) in the periodical Der shtrahl, Volume one, #2 Warsaw, 1910:
ReyzlWords1ReyzlWords3ReyzlWords4ReyzlWords5ReyzlWords2

Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter) from the Arbeter Ring’s songbook Lomir zingen (1939, NY):

Arbeter Ring1
Arbeter Ring2

Sore-Yente in Meir Noy’s Notebook:
Sore Yente Vol 1, p74-page-0

“Dus geboyrn finem mentshn” Performed by Frahdl Post

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2018 by yiddishsong

 Dus geboyrn finem mentshn / The Birth of Man
Sung by Frahdl Post
Recorded by Wolf Younin 1976, Workmen’s Circle Nursing Home, Bronx

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Usually on the blog we identify the songs by the first line, but the singer Frahdl Post called this song Dus geboyrn finem mentshn – The Birth of Man – so we will stick with that title. It is an adaptation of the first half of the poem Der malekh (The Angel), a poem by Avraham Goldfaden (1840-1908), a section bearing the subtitle “Di yunge neshome – The Young Soul”. It was first printed in Goldfaden’s poetry collection Dos yidele (Zhitomir 1866). We are attaching in 4 scans the entire poem as it appeared in the 1903 Warsaw edition.

Goldfaden picAvraham Goldfaden

The poem and song are based on the midrash and Jewish folk belief that before birth the soul of the child knows the entire Torah and all about the world. But right before birth the angel flicks his/her finger hitting the lip and the newborn forgets everything as it enters this world. The indentation above our lips, the philtrum, marks where the angel struck the child.

In Goldfaden’s 25-verse poem and Frahdl Post’s 14-verse song, the angel especially points out the evils of money in Jewish society.

Henry Carrey transcribed the song as he heard his grandmother, Frahdl Post, sing it. After listening, I changed some words of his transcription. Some words remain unclear and we indicate alternatives in brackets. I would suggest that one must read Goldfaden’s original poem to make sense of some of the lines in the song.

Post’s northern Ukrainian dialect includes both turning the “oy” to “ey”, (for example “skheyre instead of “skhoyre”), a change we associate with the northeastern Yiddish dialect (Litvish), as well as vowel changes we usually associate with the southeastern Yiddish dialect – “zugn” instead of “zogn”, “arim” instead of “arum”. The transcription reflects the dialect as much as possible.

Needless to say Frahdl Post’s memory in recalling these long songs is very impressive. Thanks for help in this week’s post go to Henry Carrey and David Braun.

TRANSLITERATION

[Ge]shlufn iz ales eyn halbe nakht
kayn shim mentsh hot zikh nit gerirt.
Nor di zilberne levune aleyn
tsvishn di shtern shpatsirt.

Demolt tsit on der shluf mit makht ,
farshlefert di mentshn di oygn,
iz fin dem himl a malakh arup
[Un iz iber di dekher gefloygn.]

Er halt di hent tsugeltulyet tsu zikh;
a yinge neshume getrugn,
“Vi trugsti mikh? Vi shlepsti mikh ?”
heybt im on di neshume tsi zugn .

“Hob nit keyn meyre, neshumele mayns”
Heybt on der malakh tsu reydn,
“Ikh vel dir bazetsn in a hayzl a fayns
Du vest dortn lebn tsufridn [in freydn].”

“Vest onheybn di velt beser farshteyn
Veln mir dir gebn a kameyeh,
Azey aza zakh hostu keyn mol geyzen
Zi heyst mitn nomen matbeye.”

“Mit der matbeye darfstu visn vi azoy tsu bageyn,
Zi iz magnet, zi iz kishef, zi iz gelt.
Zi ken dir gibn di velt tsu zeyn,
Zi ken dir farvistn dayn velt.“

Dortn zitst eyner in zan tsimer
Er trinkt mit im frayntlekh un kvelt,
Zey vi er kikt im [?] same in bekher aran.
Er vil bay im yarshenen zayn gelt.

Dortn shluft eyner in zayn tsimer.
Er shluft zikh git geshmak
Zey vi er shteyt un kritst mit di tseyn
Er vil hobn dem shlisl fun dem gelt.

Dortn firt eyner ganeyvishe skheyre,
Gur farviklt, farshtelt,
Zey vi er hot di skheyre geganvet
Un er vil zi farkeyfn far gelt.

Dortn oyf dem beys-hakvures
In an ofenem keyver oyfgeshtelt,
Zey vi er tsit di takhrikhim arup
Un er vil zey farkeyfn far gelt.

“Okh! neyn, neyn, neyn, neyn, heyliker malakh
Mit aza velt kim ikh nit oys.
Fir zhe mir beser upet aheym,
Ikh ze du kayn gits nit aroys.“

“Shpatsir dir a bisl arim afn brik,
Shpatsir zikh a bisl arim,
Di vest dokh bald darfn kimen karik
Di zolst nit kimen far im [mit keyn grim.][?]”
[Goldfaden: “Zolst kumen aheym on a mum]

Der hun hot gegebn dem ershtn krey,
A kol fun a kimpeturin,
Azey hot men gegeybn bald a geshrey,
“ A yingele! – mit lange yurn.”

[Azoy vi men hot gegeybn dem geshrey.
“Mazl-tov, a yingl geboyrn”]
Der malakh hot gegebn a shnal in der lip
Un iz karik tsum himl farfloygn.

TRANSLATION

Everything is asleep at midnight.
Not a soul was stirring.
Only the silver moon
Went walking among the stars

Sleep covers all with its power
And makes drowsy all of the people’s eyes.
An angel then came down from heaven
And flew over the rooftops.

He holds his hands tucked close to himself
A young soul he was carrying.
“Where are you carrying me? Where are you dragging me?”
The soul starts saying to him.

“Do not fear, my dear little soul”
the angel begins to speak
“I will place you in a good house.
You will live there happily.”

“When you begin to understand the world better,
we will give you a charm.
Such a thing you have never seen:
It is called by the name – coin.”

“With this coin you will have to know what to do.
It’s a magnet; it’s magic, it’s money.
It can help you see the world.
It can destroy your the world.”

There sits someone with his friend in his room.
He drinks with him as friends and enjoys it.
Look how looks right in the goblet .
He wants to inherit his money.

Another sleeps in his room,
He is sound asleep.
See how he stands and grits his teeth;
He wants to have the key to the money.

Over there someone deals with stolen goods,
Completely wrapped up, disguised.
See how he stole that merchandise
And how he wants to sell if for money.

There on the cemetery
In an open grave [a body] is propped up.
See how he pulls the burial shrouds off it
and wants to sell them for money.

“Ah no, no, no, no holy angel
I cannot survive in such a world.
It would be better if you took me home.
No good do I see here.”

“Take a walk around the bridge,
take a little walk around.
You will soon have to come back
So that you don’t appear before him with make-up [?].”
[In Goldfaden’s original – “So that you return with no blemish”]

The rooster gave its first crow
The voice of a midwife,
And thus was given the first scream
A boy! May he live for many years.

As soon as the first yell was given
“Mazl-tov! A boy was born”.
The angle gave it a flick on the lip
And flew back up to heaven.
geboyrn1

geboyrn2

geboyrn3

geboyrn4

Di yunge neshome – The Young Soul, as printed in Goldfaden’s poetry collection Dos yidele (Zhitomir 1866):

YungeNewshome1

YungeNeshome4

YungeNeshome3

YungeNeshome2

“Shtey shoyn af tokhter mayn getraye” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

„Shtey shoyn of tokhter mayn getraye‟ (“Wake Up My Faithful Daughter”) is the only Yiddish song I know that mentions coffee, and though I drink 3 double espressos daily, I thought I would post this song sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) for a different reason: a recent interesting article on family violence and Yiddish song written by Adrienne Cooper and Sarah Gordon. Originally published in Lilith magazine, and republished on-line on the Arty Semite blog of the Forward newspaper (in four parts).

In the first song example given in that essay – „A gutn ovnt Brayne‟, the first stanza ends with „zint ikh hob dem merder derkent‟ („Since I‘ve known this murderer‟). As you can also see in the song „Shtey shoyn af tokhter mayn getraye‟, merder/murderer is apparently another way to say „wife beater‟ in Yiddish.

As for „Shtey shoyn of‟ – LSW sings the first verse beautifully, somehow getting off track in the second verse – it‘s a line too short, and the melody changes – and then again getting back on track in the third verse and ending the powerful and sad song with her emotional style.

Musically, listen to the way she ornaments so subtly with „oy‟. Textually – in three short verses with vivid imagery we have a complete, melancholy short story in the classic mother-daughter dialogue form, so common in Yiddish folksong.

I think it‘s particularly touching that the mother has the final word. Perhaps other singers or versions perform additional verses in which the daughter responds; I have not found any, and this version certainly fits into LSW‘s gloomy view of the woman‘s world; a woman recently married, no less. This recording of LSW was made by Leybl Kahn in New York City in 1954.

Oy shtey shoyn af tokhter mayn getraye
dayne lipelekh zenen dir farshmakht.
Shtey shoyn af tokhter mayn getraye
dayn kave zi shteyt shoyn fartik gemakht.
Shtey shoyn af tokhter mayn getraye
Dayn kave, zi shteyt dir fartik gemakht.

O wake up my faithful daughter,
Your lips are so pale; [literally – languished, fading]
Wake up my faith daughter,
your coffee is waiting for you, already made.

Oy mame, oy miter, vos toyg mir mayn leybn af der velt?
Az dem vos ikh hob lib ken ikh nit nemen,
mit vemen vel ikh opfirn mayn velt?
Az dem vos ikh hob lib ken ikh nit nemen,
mit vemen vel ikh opfirn mayn velt?

O mama, o mother, what good is my life in the world?
If I cannot take the one I love
with whom shall I spend my life? [literally – conduct my world]

Oy, dayne bekelekh hobn geblit vi di royte epelekh
far ayn glik hob ikh mir dus forgeshtelt.
haynt, az di bist arayn tsu dem merder in di hent aran.
af eybik hot er farimert dir dayn velt.
di bist arayn tsu dem merder in di hent arayn.
oy, af eybik hot er farimert dir di velt.

O your cheeks were blooming like the red apples,
I imagined this meant happiness.
Now, that you have fallen into that murderer‘s hands,
he has forever saddened your world.