Shalom Comrade!: Yiddish Music in the Soviet Union 1928-1961

Shalom Comrade CD cover

Shalom Comrade!: Yiddish Music in the Soviet Union 1928-1961
(Schott Wergo SM 1627-2)

The anthology Shalom Comrade! tells the history of Yiddish music in the Soviet Union via rare recordings from the archive of Rubin and Ottens which have been digitally remastered by Christian Zwarg. This carefully edited production documents the enormous variety of Yiddish music performed in the Soviet Union, from rollicking klezmer dance tunes to the interwar Polish-Jewish cabaret songs of the Galician troubadour Mordkhe Gebirtig, 19th century Yiddish folk songs, music of the Soviet Yiddish theatre, to art songs with revolutionary texts by composers such as Samuil Polonskii, Lev Pulver, Vladimir Shainskii and Moses Milner, and texts by the poets B. Bergolts and Iosif Kerler. Rubin and Ottens’ 40-page booklet in English and German includes a detailed essay about the political-ideological impact on Yiddish language, culture and music and – in the final analysis – on Jewish life in the Soviet Union. Here is an extended, trilingual (English/German/Russian) version with complete song texts in the original YiddishArticle “Die jüdische Sängerin Marina Gordon” by Rita Ottens.

Yiddish music played an important role in the cultural and political life of the Soviet Union’s several million Jews throughout the 74 years of communist rule. Stalin’s cultural ideologues planned to deploy the music of the Yiddish-speaking Jews as a building block for the new Soviet music; at the same time, the “outmoded” Jewish religion and its traditional way of life was being branded as counter-revolutionary in show trials. The recording of Jewish music in the Soviet Union was limited, with only 100-150 78 rpm discs released from 1917-1967. The importance of artists like Solomon Mikhoels and Nechama Lifshitsaite was immense for the Jews of the Soviet Union: celebrities of international significance, they were as well known for their roles as political figureheads as they were for their performances.

Shalom Comrade! features some of the great performers of the Soviet and world stage: Misha Aleksandrovich, Sofia Druker, Mikhail Epelbaum, Solomon Fayntukh, Sara Fibikh, Marina “Masha” Gordon, Emil Gorovets, Anna Guzik, Irma Iaunzem, Solomon Khromchenko, Nechama Lifshitsaite, Saul Liubimov, Solomon Mikhoels, the Moscow State Yiddish Theatre, Debora Pantofel-Nechetskaia, M. I. Rabinovich, Zinovii Shulman, Sidi Tal, Tatiana Vayntraub, and Klara Vaga.

“The editing of the 26 songs was under the aegis of Rita Ottens and Joel Rubin, which may be considered to be a seal of good quality. … highly interesting and very thoroughly done”.
(Jüdische Allgemeine Wochenzeitung)

Shalom, Comrade! is an excellent addition to Joel Rubin and Rita Ottens’s fine … series of Eastern European Jewish music on the Wergo label. The notes are remarkably comprehensive, given the scarcity of data on the subject, the disc sounds great, and the selection is copious – 26 items. … There are some other reissues of this material … but Shalom, Comrade! stands out as the first thorough-going and solid documentary album.”
(Mark Slobin, Ethnomusicology Forum)

“The anthology includes the most important artists in the USSR up to the 1960s. … The almost forgotten history of Yiddish musical culture in the Soviet Union comes alive in ‘Shalom Comrade!’ and the recordings are an important addition to our Yiddish discography.”
(Dr. Itzek Gottesman, Forverts/Jewish Daily Forward)

Track List:

1. State Ensemble of Jewish Folk Musicians of the Ukrainian SSR / Freylekhs 2:25
2. Zinovii Shulman / Pastekh shpil a volekh (Shepherd, Play a Pastoral Tune)(Zelig Barditchever) 2:59
3. Moscow State Yiddish Theater / Dorozhnaia (Song of the Road) & Freylekhs (M: Lev Pulver) 2:46
4. Irma Iaunzem / Teshchenka (Mekhuteneste / Mother-In-Law) 2:42
5. Misha Aleksandrovich / Di bobe hot zikh dermont (Grandmother Recalled)(M: Moses Milner; T: B. Bergolts) 3:12
6. Sara Fibikh / Dem fartekh farlorn (The Lost Apron)(M: Alexander Krein) 2:50
7. Jewish Vocal Ensemble of the Belarusian SSR / Freylekhs (M: L. Emerman) 3:16
8. Anna Guzik / Kolybelnaia (Lullaby [Yankele])(Mordkhe Gebirtig) 2:28
9. State Ensemble for Jewish Folk Music and Song of the Ukrainian SSR / Dobranotsh & Freylekhs 2:42
10. Marina Gordon / Az du bist do iz friling do (When You Are Here, Spring is Here) (M: S. Polonskii; Text: B. Bergolts) 3:34
11. Mikhail Epelbaum / A nign on verter (Hasidic textless melody) 2:21
12. Sidi Tal / Nokhemke 2:21
13. State Ensemble of Jewish Folk Musicians of the Ukrainian SSR / A gas nign (Street Processional) 2:39
14. Jewish Vocal Ensemble Evokans / Svadebnaia (Wedding Song) 1:58
15. Klara Vaga / Dray tekhter (Three Daughters)(Mordkhe Gebirtig) 3:33
16. Tatiana Vayntraub / Gitare (Guitar) 2:59
17. Zinovii Shulman / Varnitshkes 2:56
18. S. Iu. Druker / Kolybelnaia (Jewish Lullaby [Shlof mayn kind, shlof keseyder]) 2:57
19. Saul Liubimov / Proletarka, sestra moia (Proletarke, shvester mayne/Proletarian Woman, My Sister)(S. Polonskii[?]) 2:50
20. Moscow State Yiddish Theater / Pesnia nastupleniia (Song of the Offensive) & Krasnoarmeiskaia (Red Army Song)(L.M. Pulver) 2:21
21. D. Ia. Pantofel-Nechetskaia / Viglid (Lullaby) 2:44
22. Mikhail Epelbaum / Itsikl hot khasene gehat (Itsik’s Gotten Married) 2:23
23. S. Khromchenko / Afn hoykhn barg (On the High Mountain) 2:22
24. Solomon Mikhoels / Nit Shimele/Nign on verter (Not Shimele; Hasidic Textless Melody)(L.M. Pulver) 3:03
25. Emil Gorovets / Reyzele (Mordkhe Gebirtig) 2:06
26. Nechama Lifshitsaite / Yash (M: V. Shainskii; T: I. Kerler) 3:01
extended, trilingual (English/German/Russian) version with complete song texts in the original Yiddish