Archive for Mikhl Gordon

“S’iz gekimen di heylike teyg” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2015 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

S’iz gekimen di heylike teyg (The Holy Days Have Arrived) is a song that takes place before Rosh-hoshone and Yom-kipper when it is a tradition to visit the departed family at the cemetery.

YIVO

Photo courtesy of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

In the cemetery, a voice is heard of a recently deceased woman who died in childbirth, and she sings of her anguish about her new born child and her husband whom she loved.

S’iz gekimen di heylike teyg
Ven me darf geyn af keyver-oves
Az ikh bin gekimen in halbn veg
Hob ikh mikh dermont in mane makhshoves.

Plitsem hert men a kol
fin a frishn korbn.
Fin a yunger kimpiturin.
Vus iz ersht nisht lang geshtorbn.

Vi iz mayn yinger man?
Ver vet im arimnemen?
Vi iz mayn pitsele kind?
Ver vet im zeygn gebn?

Az ikh dermon mikh in der tsayt
Ven gehat hob ikh es [epes?] tsu krign.
Az ikh dermon mikh in der tsayt
Fin mayn man, fin mayn libn.

The holy days have arrived
time to visit family in the graveyard
When I was half way there,
I remembered my ruminations.

Suddenly a voice is heard
from a fresh victim:
A woman who died in childbirth
Just a short while ago.

Where is my young husband?
Who will embrace him?
Where is my little child?
Who will breastfeed it?

When I am reminded of that time
when I had what I wanted.
When i think of that time,
Of my husband whom I loved.sizgekumen1sizgekumen2

When one thinks about love songs in Yiddish, the vast majority are sung by unmarried girls who dream of the man they love and how wonderful life will be after the wedding. Few are the songs, such as this, in which the woman openly expresses love for her young husband. Lifshe Shaechter Widman’s (LSW’s) powerful emotional style matches the words perfectly.

In this case, the wife sings of her love from her grave and the song immediately reminds us of another song performed by LSW, Afn beys-olyem, also known as Di shtifmuter and originally penned by Mikhl Gordon.

In addition to this field recording of LSW made by Leybl Kahn in the Bronx, 1954, there are two other published versions of S’iz gekimen di heylike teg. One, collected by Shmuel-Zaynvil Pipe in Galica, does indeed take one verse taken from Gordon’s song. see Dov Noy and Meir Noy, Yidishe folkslider fun galitsye (Tel Aviv, 1971), page 110 – 112.

In Pipe’s version the song is strictly an orphan song and has a refrain.

Pipe1Pipe2

The second version can be found in Shloyme Bastomski’s song collection, Baym kval – folkslider, Vilna, 1923 (page 81, song #22) and he calls it Di shtifmuter, the same title as Gordon’s song. This second version emphasizes the wicked step-mother who will mistreat the child.

bastomski- heylike teg

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“Oy vey rebenyu” Performed by Josh Waletzky

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2014 by yiddishsong

Oy vey rebenyu
Performance by Josh Waletzky
Video-recorded at Center for Traditional Music and Dance’s office, New York City, by Peter Rushefsky, Ethel Raim and Benjy Fox-Rosen, January 28th, 2012.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

New York Yiddish singer Josh Waletzky learned this maskilic/anti-Hasidic song from from his grandfather Morris (Moyshe) Waletzky. Oy vey rebenyu has been recorded in a similar version by Jan Bart, with another version by Cantor Isaac Goodfriend.

The Soviet folklorist Z. Skuditski pointed out the similarity to the Mikhl Gordon song Mayn Tshuve (see note in Folklor-lider, volume 2) and it has been considered a Mikhl Gordon song ever since (I could not obtain the original Gordon version). However this anti-Hasidic song was later adapted and interpreted in some circles as a song to praise the rebbe, not mock him.

Interpretations praising the rebbe:

The Yiddish poet Yermye Hescheles (1910 – 2010), from Glina, Galicia, Poland,  told me that on the holiday of Lag B’omer, when the melamed (teacher in the kheyder) walked with them into the woods, he taught the children this song in praise of the rebbe. (I would imagine that the verse with the cook Trayne was cut).

Di Naye Kapelye in Budapest recorded the song – only the refrain – in a slow, spiritual interpretation, on their album –  “A mazeldiker yid” released on the Oriente Musik label.

According to band leader Bob Cohen, the source is a tape recording made in Maramures in 1970 by Romanian-Jewish ethnomusicologust Ghizella Suliteanu of a Roma band from Borsa led by Gheorghe Stingaci Covaci.

Refrain:

Oy vey rebenyu, ikh shuteye un tsiter
un in hartsn brent a fayer.
un in hartsn brent a fayer.
Yakh vil zayn a khosidl a guter,
a khosidl a getrayer.
Yakh vil zayn a khosidl a guter,
a khosidl a getrayer.

O rebbe I stand and shiver
In my heart burns  fire.
I want to be a good khosid,
a faithful khosid.

Bay dem davenen vel ikh zikh shoklen,
makhn alerley hevayes.
Far dem rebn mit zayne khasidim
geyt mir oys dos Hayes.

When I pray I will rock,and make all kinds of gestures.
For the rebbe and his khasidim,
my strength gives out.

Vinter in di greste keltn.
Far dem rebn mit zayne Chasidim
gey ikh aynleygn veltn.

Winter in the greatest cold.
For the rebbe and his khasidim
I will tear down entire worlds.

Refrain

In Folklor-lider, vol. 2 the verses are:

A kalte mikve vel ikh zikh makhn
vinter in di greste keltn.
Far dem rebenyu, far zayne khsidimlekh
vel ikh kereven veltn.

A cold mikve I will prepare
winter in the greatest cold.
For the rebbe, for his hasidim
I will turn over worlds.

A vareme shal vel ikh zikh koyfn
zumer in di greste hitsn.
A zaydenem gartl vel ikh mir koyfn,
a hitl mit zibetsn shpitsn.

A warm shawl will I buy
summer in the greatest heat.
A silk belt will I buy, 
a hat with 17 corners.

Dem rebn vel ikh leygn in fodershtn alker
tsuzamen mit der kekhne Trayne.
Un ale kshidemlekh veln hobn tsum rebn
gor a groyse tayne.

I will put the rebbe in the front den
with the cook Trayne.
And all the Hasidim will complain
to the rebbe. 

oyveyrebenyu1

oyveyrebenyu2

“Brider, Zog” by Sholem Berenshteyn

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Brider, zog (Brother, Say) is by the 19th century Yiddish poet Sholem Berenshteyn. No one seems to be sure of his life dates (and not even his first name – some say Shmuel) but he lived in Kamenetz-Podolsk, Ukraine, and died before 1880. In 1869 he published his collection Magazin fun yidishe lider far dem yidishn folk in Zhitomir, which was reprinted several times.

The best source for his biography is Zalmen Reisin‘s Leksikon fun der yidisher literatur, volume 1. Reisin considers him one of the first Yiddish folkpoets and even the poet Mikhl Gordon („Maskhe‟, „Di bord‟) considered him a better poet than himself. As Reisin points out, his work sometimes touches upon typical maskilic themes (anti-Hasidic, Russian patriotism) but he mostly stays clear of them, and his most popular poems became songs with traditional themes such as Brider zog and Sholem-Aleykhem which the Bessarabian folksinger Arkady Gendler sings on his recording, released in 2001, Mayn shtetele Soroke, produced by Jeanette Lewicki.

The most extensive discusssion of the song Brider, zog is in Joseph and Chana Mlotek‘s book Perl fun der yidisher poezye which was recently translated into English by Barnett Zumoff as Pearls of Yiddish Poetry, Ktav Publishing. The song was originally titled Zmires has 15 verses; what was sung were the first four verses.

I have attached the Yiddish words and music in the version found in Z. Kisselhof‘s Lider zamlung far der yidisher shul un familye, St. Petersburg 1911 which is very close to the version sung here.

The unidentified singer is clearly more of a „pro‟ than we are used to hearing in the songs posted on this blog. But listening to her interpretation of khasidic song does raise interesting questions about the “art song” interpretation of khasidic style. The late, great Masha Benya, among others, comes to mind in this regard. This singer turns a song, which melodically could be quite boring, into an interesting performance.

I know this song from my mother, Beyle Schaechter Gottesman, who learned it from her mother, Lifshe Schaecther Widman, and the words as they are sung here are almost exactly the same (we sing „Ver vet lakhn, un khoyzek makhn…‟).

Thanks again to Lorin Sklamberg, sound archivist at YIVO, who allowed us to post another song from the YIVO Stonehill collection.

A folkslid…khsidish.
A folksong, khasidic.

Brider zog, vi heyst der tog,
ven mir ale zenen freylekh?
Der yidele, der kleyner, der kusherer, der sheyner
Iz dokh dan a meylekh.

Tell me brother what is the day called
when we are all joyous?
The Jew, the little one, the kosher one, the beautiful,
Then feels himself like a king.

Shabes aleyn, kimt tsu geyn,
Freyt aykh kinder ale!
Oy tantst kinder, yederere bazinder,
Lekoved der heyliker kale.

The Sabbath itself arrives,
Be happy all you children!
O, dance children, each on his own,
in honor of the holy bride.

Dos iz klor, vi a hor
az shabes is di kale.
Der khusndl der sheyner, iz nit keyner.
Nor mir yidelekh ale.

This is obvious as a hair,
that Sabbath is the bride.
The beautiful groom is no one else
but all of us Jews.

Un ver es lakht, un khoyzek makht.
Fun der kale-khusn.
Der vet take esn a make
fun der side-levyusn.

And he who laughs, and mocks
the groom and bride.
He will indeed eat nothing
at the Leviathan-feast.

o, brider zog….

“Ven ikh volt gehot dem keysers oytsres” Performed by Ita Taub

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

This recording of Ita Taub was done in our dining room in our Bronx home in the 1980s after a meal, as you can hear from the clanging of dishes. For biographical information on Taub see the earlier post on “Oy vey mame.”

Ven ikh volt gehot dem keysers oytsres (If I were to have the Emperor’s Treasures) was written by Mikhl Gordon (1823 – 1890). According to Chana and Joseph Mlotek in their Yiddish-language work Perl fun der yidisher poezye, 1974 (now available in English), this song was originally called “Shlof mayn kind” and included in his first collection printed in 1868.

Mikhl Gordon

The Mloteks also say that Isa Kremer performed the song often and popularized it, though I cannot find a recording of her singing it. The Freedman Jewish Sound Archive lists two recent recordings of the song with the title “Az ikh volt gehat dem keysers oytsres.”

I have not seen Gordon’s work so I am not sure how many verses are in his original but a third verse is included in some recordings and collections such as Z. Kisselgof’s Lider-zamlbuch, Berlin 1914, that concern the father going to hell. That verse adds a little bittersweet humor to the song, and it’s interesting that with a woman singer such as Ita Taub the verse is dropped. As Taub sings it, the song only relates directly to the mother and child relationship.

Taub’s interpretation is truly moving and culminates in that great dramatic last line “Let enter the Tsadik’s mother!”

Ven ikh volt gehot dem keysers oytsres
mit zayn gantser melikhe.
Volt es nit geveyn bay mir nikhe,
vi di bist bay mir nikhe. 

If I were to have the Emperor‘s treasures
and his entire land.
It would not be as pleasing to me,
as you are pleasing to me.

Mayn kind, mayn kroyn
Ven ikh derzey deyekh
Vayst zikh dokh mir oys,
az di gontse velt iz mayn.

My child, my crown.
When I see you
It seems to me
That the whole world is mine.

Shluf mayn kind, shluf mayn kind,
zolst nor leybn un zayn zezint.
Ay-lu -lu -lu, Ay-lu- lu-lu

Sleep may child, sleep my child.
You should only live and be healthy,
Ay-lu-lu.

Ven ikh vel amol darfn
af yener velt geyen,
veln toyern funem gin-eydn
far mir ofn shteyen.

When I will have to
go to the other world,
the gates of Heaven
will stand open for me.

Vayl di mayn kind
vet zayn a frimer un a giter.
Vet me zugn af yener velt –
„Lozst arayn dem tsadiks miter!‟

Because you my child,
will be observant and good,
So in the other world they will say –
„Let enter the Tsaddik‘s mother!‟

Shluf mayn kind, shluf, mayn kind,
zolst nor leybn un zayn gezint,
Ay-lu-lu-lu, Ay-lu-lu-lu

Sleep may child, sleep my child.
You should only live and be healthy,
Ay-lu-lu.



“Afn beys-oylem” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

„Afn beys-oylem‟ (On the Cemetery) is a version of Mikhl Gordon‘s Di shtifmuter (The Stepmother). A complete text of the original in Yiddish can be found in the first volume of Antologye: finf hundert yor yidishe poezye edited by M. Bassin, 1917, pages 167 -169, and Perl fun der yidisher poezye edited by Joseph and Chana Mlotek, 1974, pages 29-31 (A translation of the Mlotek book into English by Barnett Zumoff – Pearls of Yiddish Poetry – was published a couple of months ago).

A similar version of this song is in Shmuel-Zanvil Pipe‘s collection „Yiddish Folksongs From Galicia‟ edited by Dov and Meir Noy and included in the Pipe-volume –  Folklore Research Center Studies, volume 2, Jerusalem, 1971. In that text, a verse which names the husband “Avrum” is also sung; so a distinct Galician/Bukovina variant is clear, which is very different from the much longer original (there is no mention of the father‘s name in Gordon‘s text).  But as sometimes, or perhaps often happens, the condensed folk-version has much more power and intensity. For other versions see note #9, p. 300, in the Pipe volume.

Mikhl Gordon, (Vilna, 1823 – Kiev, 1890) had a wonderful sense of humor (he was author of „Di bord‟). However, here he composed a moving, even shocking, portrait of the life of an orphan. Women folksingers had no problem singing this kind of song since it truly reflected the difficult times and hopelessly depressing family situations. Singing it today from a stage is another matter…

LSW‘s Performance

For more on singer Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) 1893-1974 click here.

I consider this song the epitome of LSW‘s slow, mournful vocal style brimming with ornamentation. You can also hear the reach and power of her voice, which seems to float, if you will.

She clearly flubs the second verse, singing only three out of four lines and does not rhyme the obvious „anider‟ and „glider‟. But she improvises a neat ending to the shortened verse and continues. Notice how she only repeats the last two lines in the final verse, the emotional highpoint of the song.

This recording was done by Leybl Kahn in New York City, 1954. Please note that the Yiddish dialect of the singer is more accurately reflected in the transliteration than in the Yiddish text. 

Af deym beys-oylem inter a mitseyve,
dort hert men eyn kol fun ayn toyter nikeyve.
Oy vey! Dort shrayt a miter – oy vey iz mir in vind,
Vos vil di shtifmame fin man eyn in eyntsik kind!?

On the cemetery under a gravestone,
You can hear the voice of a dead woman.
Oy vey! shouts the mother. Oy vey, woe to me.
What does the stepmother want from my only child?

Zi kimt aheym fin der gas, di groyse marshas,
zi varft im anider, zi heybt im of.
zi tsenemt im a yede glider.

She comes home from the street, the evil woman,
she throws him down, and lifts him up,
she breaks every part of his body.

Avrum, Avrum, di bist geveyzn mayn man.
dem yusemeles futer, oykh min-hastam.
Oy vey! Tsi iz dayn herts fin ayzn, in di aleyn fin shteyn,
Vi (azoy) kensti farnemen deym yusemls geveyn?

Avrum, Avrum, you were my husband.
and the father of the orphaned child, of course.
Oy vey, is your heart made of iron, and you made out of stone?
How can you stand the cries of the orphan?

אויפֿן בית־עולם (די שטיפֿמוטער)

אויף דעם בית־עולם אונטער איין מצבֿה,

דאָרט הערט מען איין קול פֿון אײַן טויטער נקבֿה.

אוי וויי! דאָרט שרײַט אַ מוטער — אוי וויי איז מיר און ווינד!

וואָס וויל די שטיפֿמאַמע פֿון מײַן איין און אייציקן קינד?!

.

זי קומט אַהיים פֿון דער גאַס, די גרויסע מרשעת,

זי וואַרפֿט אים אַנידער, זי הייבט אים אויף,

זי צענעמט אים אַ יעדער גלידער.

.

אַבֿרהם, אַבֿרהם, דו ביסט געוועזן מײַן מאַן

דעם יתומלס פֿאָטער, אויך מן־הסתּם.

אוי וויי! צי איז דײַן הערץ פֿון אײַזן, און דו אַליין פֿון שטיין,

ווי( אַזוי) קענסטו פֿאַרנעמען דעם יתומלס געוויין?