ITZHAK PERLMAN – Popular Jewish Melodies

Originally released in 1987 and reissued in 2003 as part of EMI’s Perlman Edition, these Popular Jewish Melodies reveal Itzhak Perlman’s deep affection for the popular music of his childhood in Israel. This retrospective album of songs from the Yiddish musical theater, many of which were made popular in the mid-twentieth century by such singers as Joseph Rosenblatt, Mordechai Hershman, and Jan Peerce, is filled with the melancholy and yearning they expressed in their recordings. Perlman’s performances are clearly informed by memories of these vocalists, and his frequent use of the G string certainly evokes a plaintive, cantorial tenor. The majority of the program is devoted to slow, emotional songs in minor keys, and with rare exception, the tone is nostalgic and subdued, unlike Perlman’s later Klezmer album, In the Fiddler’s House. The sorrowful melody of Oif’n Pripetchik brennt a feier’l will be most familiar to listeners from its use in the film Schindler’s List, though this arrangement is more elaborate and artful. Dov Seltzer’s polished orchestrations subtly suggest the lush style of the 1940s, yet borrow little from that era’s studio sound. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, under Seltzer’s direction, presents a dark but resonant background for Perlman’s passionate solos, and bright energy in the disc’s few exuberant passages.

I. THE JEWISH MOTHER – A Yiddishe Mamme – Traditional (00:00)
This song, whose authors are unknown, originated on the stage of the Yiddish theatre at the time of mass emigration of Jews to the USA in search of a better life. It is a song of yearning for the warm and loving touch that only a mother, particularly a Jewish mother, can provide.
“A Jewish mother — she is dearer than money.”
“A Jewish mother — how sad when she’s so far away..”

As der Rebbe Elimelech is gevoyrn asoi freylach
Music: Anonymous
Moshe (Moishe) Nadir was one of the great Jewish humorists and satirists. Here, with all due respect to the great Rabbi Elimelech, he portrays him as a happy human being, not above the foibles of frolicking with abandon at times of joy.

III. REYZELE (12:44)
Music: Mordechai Gebirtig
A victim of the Holocaust, Mordechai (Mordkhe) Gebirtig created many songs that became very popular throughout the lands of Jewish dispersion. Here a young maiden, wishing to preserve her traditional “purity,” implores her secret lover not to whistle when he comes courting.

IV. AT THE FIREPLACE – Oif’n Pripetchik brennt a feier’l (16:57)
Music: Mark Warshavsky
This song, by a protege of Sholem Aleichem, has become the essence of the Yiddish folksong, and a classic of the genre. It is a perfect paean to the very soul of Jewishness (at least in the East-European tradition), expressing the suffering, the tears, the heroism and the tribulations of endless wandering in the exile, the Diaspora. This is portrayed through a touching picture of children crowded around their Rebbe in a heated room, learning the wonders of the alphabet.

V. DOYNA (21:06)
Music: Romanian Anonymous
This tune originated in Romanian folk song and was adopted by the Jewish Klezmers who traveled around playing at weddings and other festivities. (Similarly, many Jewish melodies found their way to the folksongs of other peoples.) The Doyna has thus become one of the most popular Klezmer melodies.

VI. RAISINS AND ALMONDS – Rozhinkes mit Mandelen (24:50)
Music: Abraham Goldfaden
Originally an aria from Goldfaden’s operetta “Shulamit,” this rapidly became such a hit that it quickly turned into a popular folksong. It is a statement of innocent optimism and faith in the Jewish fate and future.

VII. BY THE WAYSIDE STANDS A TREE – Oif’n Weyg steyt a Boim (30:31)
Music: Anonymous
Itzik Manger was a true folk-poet whose works have rightly become classics of Jewish literature. In the present example a young Jewish lad dreams of turning into a bird, so that he might experience true freedom in all its glory, to nest among the bare branches of a wayside tree, deserted in the wintry storm by all the birds.

VIII. A SONG – A Dudele (36:00)
Music: Reb Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev
Many of Rabbi Yitzhak’s songs have become true folksongs. They are all, like the present one, simple and straightforward expressions of the faith in God the Almighty, and of the great inner joy that may be derived from this faith.
« Oh, mighty God! O mighty God!
I shall sing you a song:
You are in the North, and You are in the South.
You are in the East, and You are in the West! You, You, You, You.. »

IX. WHERE SHALL I GO ? – Vi ahin soil ich Geyn ? (40:55)
Music: Oscar Stock
Though written by two men of the theatre before the Holocaust, this song became very popular during World War Il in the ghettoes and concentration camps. It depicts the profound dilemma of the desperate Jewish People, persecuted everywhere and at a loss as to ’’where one can go’’..

Violin: Itzhak Perlman
Clarinet Solo: Israel Zohar
The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor and Arranger : Dov Seltzer
Recorded in 1986-87
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