Jewish Cabaret In Exile / New Budapest Orpheum Society

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"The beautifully produced Çedille album of Jewish cabaret music broke new ground. Yet more depths were revealed in a ravaged culture: modest, entertaining, and humane." -- Paul Ingram, Fanfare

The booklet accompanying this release is so thick that it requires a double jewel case to accommodate it and the single CD it documents. So extensive are the essay, annotations, and bibliography to this production—assumed to have been authored by the New Budapest Orpheum’s director, Philip V. Bohlman, though nowhere is he credited as the author—that I will not even try to summarize their contents, which cover the history, politics, and poetics of Yiddish song in stage, screen, vaudeville, and cabaret. The program of Jewish cabaret songs contained herein complements some of the volumes that appeared in the massive Milken Archive of American Jewish Music, though the composers represented on the current CD were not necessarily transplants to American soil. Of those who enriched the Jewish cabaret literature, some did make it to U.S. shores, notably Hanns Eisler, Kurt Weill, and Arnold Schoenberg. But others, such as Viktor Ullmann and Pavel Haas, perished in the Holocaust.

The disc is divided into seven sections: (1) “The Great Ennui on the Eve of Exile,” featuring songs by Edmund Nick and Erich Kästner; (2) “The Exiled Language—Yiddish Songs for Stage and Screen,” featuring unattributed songs, but at least one by Abraham Ellstein; (3) “Transformation of Tradition,” presenting songs by the aforementioned Eisler; (4) “The Poetics of Exile,” offering songs by Kurt Tucholsky, as well as additional songs by Eisler; (5) “Traumas of Inner Exile,” featuring songs by Ullmann; (6) “Nostalgia and Exile,” presenting additional unattributed songs; and (7) “Exile in Reprise,” offering songs by Friedrich Holländer.
The songs were chosen to reflect the various phases of exile—physical, emotional, and psychological—that European Jewry experienced in the period leading up to and during WW II and its immediate aftermath, roughly 1935 to 1945, a period that accounts for the second great exodus of Jews from Europe. Primarily then, these are songs from the smoke-filled nightclubs and entertainment halls of Berlin and other European cities before the rise of Hitler, from the barracks of the concentration camps during the Holocaust, and from the months and years following the liberation. The before, during, and after the Shoah aspects of the recorded material frame and reflect the corresponding attitudes, mindsets, and living conditions of the times—from a song like Elegy in the Forest of Things, expressing a kind of resigned world weariness; to Ellstein’s Deep as Night that tries to deaden the senses to the pain of the outside world with the surrogate internal pain of a longed for love; to the bitter sarcasm of Eisler’s Sweetbread and Whips and Georg Kreisler’s Poisoning Pigeons, a song about spreading arsenic on graham crackers and feeding them to the birds in the park; and finally to I’m an Irrepressible Optimist, a song from the aftermath which cannot erase memories and finds optimism only in the release of death.

The New Budapest Orpheum Society is an ensemble-in-residence at the University of Chicago. A mixed group of vocalists (Julia Bentley, mezzo-soprano and Stewart Figa, baritone) and instrumentalists (Iordanka Kisslova, violin; Stewart Miller, string bass; Hank Tausend, percussion; and Ilya Levinson, piano), the NBOS performs regularly at Chicago’s universities, synagogues, and cultural institutions, and has also appeared at the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum and the American Academy in Berlin. Philip V. Bohlman is the group’s artistic director; and Ilya Levinson, in addition to her role as pianist, also serves as music director and arranger.

Readers who acquired and enjoyed the three volumes from the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music titled “Songs of the American Yiddish Stage” (Naxos 8.559405, 8.559432, and 8.559455) will find much in “Jewish Cabaret in Exile” to their liking. One needn’t necessarily be Jewish, however, to appreciate this material, much of which had its origins in the dives, dance halls, and strip joints of Bertolt Brecht’s, Kurt Weill’s, Lotte Lenya’s, and Marlene Dietrich’s Berlin. Some of it is pretty heady stuff, with the gender-bending sexual stereotyping and absurdist satire of a decadent, Dada-costumed culture on the verge of imploding. Recommended then if you love it. If you don’t, best leave it.
-- Jerry Dubins, Fanfare

Track listing details:

I. The Great Ennui on the Eve of Exile
Edmund Nick (1891–1973) & Erich Kästner (1899–1974)
1 Die möblierte Moral / The Well-Furnished Morals (1:48)
2 Das Wiegenlied väterlicherseite / The Father’s Lullaby (4:49)
3 Die Elegie in Sachen Wald / Elegy in the Forest of Things (3:29)
4 Der Gesang vom verlorenen Sohn / The Song of the Lost Son (5:13)
5 Das Chanson für Hochwohlgeborene / The Chanson for Those Who Are Born Better (2:43)
6 Der Song “man müßte wieder . . .”/ The Song “Once Again One Must . . .” (3:59)

II. The Exiled Language — Yiddish Songs for Stage and Screen
7 Moses Milner (1886–1953): In Cheider / In the Cheder (5:46)
8 Mordechai Gebirtig (1877–1942): Avreml, der Marvikher / Abe, the Pickpocket (5:12)
9 Abraham Ellstein (1907–1963): Tif vi di Nacht / Deep as the Night (3:07)

III. Transformation of Tradition
Hanns Eisler (1898–1962):
From Zeitungsausschnitte, Op. 11 (Newspaper Clippings)
10 Mariechen / Little Marie (1:49)
11 Kriegslied eines Kindes / A Child’s Song of War (2:32)

IV. The Poetics of Exile: Songs by Hanns Eisler and Kurt Tucholsky (1890–1935)
12 Heute zwischen Gestern und Morgen / Today between Yesterday and Tomorrow (2:35)
13 Bügerliche Wohltätigkeit / Civic Charity (3:01)
14 Zuckerbrot und Peitsche / Sweetbread and Whips (2:20)
15 An den deutschen Mond / To the German Moon (2:46)
16 Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit / Unity and Justice and Freedom (1:53)
17 Couplet für die Bier-Abteilung / Couplet for the Beer Department (1:26)

V. Traumas of Inner Exile
Viktor Ullmann (1898–1944)
Three Yiddish Songs (Brezulinka), op. 53 (1944)
18 Berjoskele / The Little Birch (4:18)
19 Margaritkele / Little Margaret (1:37)
20 Ich bin a Maydl in di Yorn / I’m Already a Young Woman (1:30)

VI. Nostalgia and Exile
21 Georg Kreisler (b. 1922): Tauben vergiften / Poisoning Pigeons (2:46)
22 Hermann Leopoldi (1888–1959) and Robert Katscher (1894–1942): Ich bin ein unverbesserlicher Optimist / I’m an Irrepressible Optimist (3:46)
23 Misha Spoliansky (1898–1985) / Marcellus Schiffer (1892–1932): Heute Nacht oder nie / Tonight or Never (3:22)

VII. Exile in Reprise
Friedrich Holländer on Stage and Film
24 Friedrich Holländer (1896–1976): Marianka (2:32)
25 Wenn der Mond, wenn der Mond . . . / If the Moon, If the Moon . . . (3:00) Lyrics by Theobald Tiger (Kurt Tucholsky)


Product Description:


  • Catalog Number: CDR 110


  • UPC: 735131911023


  • Label: Cedille


  • Composer: Abraham Ellstein, Edmund Josef Nick, Frederick Holländer, Georg Kreisler, Hanns Eisler, Hermann Leopoldi, Mischa Spoliansky, Mordecai Gebirtig, Moses Milner, Viktor Ullmann


  • Orchestra/Ensemble: New Budapest Orpheum Society