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Eliakum Zunser’s “Der aristokrat” Performed by Nathan Singer

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2020 by yiddishsong

Eliakum Zunser’s “Der aristokrat”, Sung by Nathan Singer
Recorded in 1948.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

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Eliakum Zunser by Jacob Epstein, 1902

“Der aristokrat” was one of the most popular songs by the Vilna badkhn and composer Eliakum Zunser (1836-1913). It is the fifth Zunser song that we have posted on the blog.

The song is taken from a recording of the Singer and Nitzberg families which was done on a wire recorder in 1948 probably in Baltimore. Gertrude Singer Nitzberg transferred the recordings to tape in the 1970s and donated them to the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Nathan Singer sings Zunser’s song in a “Litvish” dialect (“leyb” instead of “loyb”, “siml” instead of “shiml” for example). His version is remarkably close to Zunser’s printed orginal. The full text is 224 lines and was first printed in Eliakum Zunser’s collection  Tsen yidishe folkslider, Vilna, 1888. Singer sings only one verse – 16 lines.

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Zunser’s 1888 collection Tsen yidishe folkslider

There are two recordings of this song and both are by professional singers, so this home performance with a simplified melody contrasts with theirs, and most likely reflects how it was sung among the folk. One recording is on a Folkways album Selected Songs of Eliakum Zunser featuring the singer Nathaniel A. Entin. The other recording is found on a 78 rpm record by Marcus Eisenberg called “Der aristokrat”, 1919.

The complete poem “Der aristokrat” tells of the trials and tribulations of a wealthy man who leaves the Jewish world to live among Christians but he is not wanted there. He ends up a happy man working the land in Petah-Tikvah, Palestine.

We are attaching the complete Yiddish text from volume one of The Works of Elyokum Zunser: A Critical Edition by Mordkhe Schaechter, YIVO, 1964 and the music from volume two of the same work.

TRANSCRIPTION and TRANSLATION OF NATHAN SINGER’S VERSION OF “DER ARISTOKRAT”

Fil dank ikh un leyb Gotes nomen,
er hot mir di eygn eyfgemakht.
Hot geshikt eyf mayn shtetl pogromen
Dos hot mir fun kholem ervakht…

Many thanks and praises of God’s name,
for he had opened my eyes.
He sent pogroms to attack my town
which woke me up from my dream. 

Ikh hob opgelebt a lebn in tuml,
fardorbn mayn kerper mayn zel.
Af mayn hartsn iz ongevaksn siml [shiml]
un mayn yidishkayt iz avek in der velt.

I have a life of unrest.
Ruined my body and soul.
Mold was growing on my heart
and my Jewishness got lost. 

Geveynt haynt mit fremde natsyonen,
mayne brider ferhast un ferakht;
Am ende hot men mir nit gevolt konen,
in di eygn var ikh oysgelakht!

I live today among foreign nations,
my brothers hated and despised.
Finally, no one wanted to know me,
I was mocked to my eyes. 

Fardorbn mayn vayb mayne kinder,
kayn ruikn lebn gehat,
kegn Got, kegn laytn a zinder –
kh’ob gevelt zayn an “aristokrat”. 

Ruined my wife and children,
no peaceful life have I had.
Against God, against man I have sinned.
I wanted to be an aristocrat.

“Der Aristokrat” in The Works of Elyokum Zunser: A Critical Edition by Mordkhe Schaechter, YIVO, 1964 (music from Volume 2, text from Volume 1):

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“Ot her ikh vider a heymishe lidele” Performed by Yudeska (Yehudis) Eisenman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2017 by yiddishsong

 

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This week’s post features a song, Ot her ikh vider a heymishe lidele (אָט הער איך ווידער אַ היימישע לידעלע / Now I Hear Again a Hometown Song), that was apparently very popular in the 1910s and 1920s but has been mostly forgotten today. This field recording of  the singer Yehudis Eisenman was made by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman at the same time as Bald vet zayn a regn in the Bronx, 1993.

The poem is by the poet Yoysef Yofe (יוסף יפֿה /Joseph Jaffe) and has been titled Hemat, Heim, and Mayn Litvishe shtetele among others. Yofe was born in 1865 in Salant, near Kaunas/Kovne. He came to the US in 1892 and died in 1938 in the Bronx, NY. (Scans of  Yiddish text taken from Yidishe khrestomatye, ed. Avrom Reisin, 1908 are attached). Yofe was also the writer of at least one other Yiddish song, Dem zeydns brokhe (Grandfather’s Blessing).

YofeImage

Yoysef Yofe

 In Zalmen Reisin’s Leksikon fun der yidisher literaturprese un filologye, volume 1, Vilna, 1926, this poem-turned-song by Yofe is specifically mentioned:

זייער פּאָפּולער איז בשעתו געווען זײַן ליד „היימאַט” (אָט זע איך ווידער מײַן היימישעס שטעטעלע) צו ערשט געדרוקט אין “יוד”, וואָס איז פֿיל געזונגען געוואָרן.

“Very popular in its time was his poem ‘Heimat’ (Here I see again my hometown), first published in Der Yud which was often sung.” I believe that Eisenman’s melody is the one sung in the 1920s.

In the Robert and Molly Freedman Jewish Sound Archive at the University of Pennsylvania, a version with the same melody can be heard on the CD Herman Snyder and Friends at Home which is from a field recording cassette made by Robert Freedman in Florida in the 1970s or 80s. We are attaching that wonderful recording at the end of the post.

If this is the Herman Snyder whom I think it is, then his Yiddish name was Khayim Shnayder and he and fellow folksinger Isaac Rymer were best friends in NY. Though I never met him and never heard him before, Shnayder was known for his wonderful Yiddish folksinging and I was so glad to hear this field tape recording. You can also hear Rymer talking or singing along in the background of many songs of this CD.

Sidor Belarsky recorded this song with a different melody under the title Mayn Shtetele on the LP Sidor Belarsky in a Yiddish Song Recital (1964). The composer of the Belarsky version was Paul Discount. Another melody by the composer David Botwinik was recorded by Cantor Henry Rosenblat, Cantor Moshe Ganchoff,  and Lisa Wilson with the title Di litvishe shtetele. Wilson’s performance can be heard on the CD of David Botwinik’s compositions From Holocaust to Life.

Chana and Joseph Mlotek discuss this song in their Forverts column Perl fun der yidisher literatur (Sept. 26, 1971, April 19, 1996), but I could not obtain a copy of these articles.

Thanks to Robert Freedman for his assistance with this week’s blog entry.

Recording of Yehudis Eisenman:

Recording of Herman Snyder:

Ot her ikh vider a heymishe lidele
Ot ze ikh vider dem eyruv, dem tsoym.
Bistu dos take mayn heymishe shtetele
Oder ikh ze dir in troym?

Ot shteyt di kretshmele noent lebn grobn do,
hekdeshl bedele, alts vi geven.
Kleyninke oreme, heymishe shtetele,
Lang hob ikh dir nit gezen.

Ot shteyt der beys-medreshl, a khurve, a moyerl.
Fentster tsebrokhene, krumlekhe vent.
Shtibelekh kvorimlekh, dekhelekh gezunkene,
vider hob ikh aykh derkent.

Zogt mir vu zaynen yetst mayne khaverimlekh
lebn zey, vandlen zey, zaynen zey toyt?
Zing fun dem vigele, zing fun dem tsigele,
zing fun der yidisher noyt.

Tsit zikh mayn lidele, eynzam un troyerik,
trerelekh heysinke gor on a shir.
Zise derinerungen, kindershe, herlekhe
lebn in harts uf bay mir.

Now I hear once again a hometown song,
now I see again the eruv, the fence.
Are you indeed my hometown
or am I seeing you in a dream?

Here stands the tavern near the ditch.
Poorhouse and bathhouse as they were before.
Delicate poor ones, my hometown,
Long have I not seen you.

Here stands the house of prayer, a ruin, a stone wall,
broken windows, crooked walls.
Little houses like graves, sunken roofs –
I have recognized you again.

Tell me where are my friends now?
Are they alive, have they wandered, are they dead?
Sing of the cradle; sing of the little goat,
sing of Jewish poverty.

My poem stretches lonely and sad.
Hot tears without end.
Sweet, beautiful memories of childhood,
live in my heart.

OtHerIkhYofeOtHerIkhYoffe2