JMRC discs receive two great reviews!

The latest issue of the Association of Jewish Libraries newsletter features glowing reviews, reprinted in full below, of the two latest Jewish Music Research Centre releases, Or Haganuz: Gems of Ashkenazi Hazzanut and Yiddish Songs Revived and Vemen Vestu Zingen, Vemen?: Leibu Levin Performs in Yiddish! The discs were reviewed by Judith S. Pinnolis of Brandeis Univerisity and the Hebrew College, who also maintains the venerable Jewish Music Web Center, one of the first websites dedicated to Jewish music.
Hainovitz, Asher. Or Haganuz: Gems of Ashkenazi Hazzanut and Yiddish Songs Revived. Contemporary Jewish Music Series, IV. 2015. Jewish Music Research Centre, Jerusalem, Israel. $20.00. CJM 1501.
It’s not every day that a research institute puts forward a CD that is both valuable as an academic recording as well as suitable as worthy entertainment. This compilation of materials honors the 50th anniversary of the Jewish Music Research Centre in Jerusalem. Andre Hajdu (1932-2016), took up the challenge of creating new art arrangements of Yiddish songs and outstanding cantorial selections. The music takes familiar repertoire from Eastern European Ashkenazi hazzanut (Jewish cantorial compositions) and marries it to contemporary musical language, incorporating the piano accompaniment as an integral part of the music rather than mere accompaniment. Hajdu was deeply influenced by his early musical training with Bartók and Kodály in incorporating folk melody into classical composition, as well a Cantor Berele Saltzman from Russia, whose presentation of Eastern European hazzanut remained a formative encounter for the Israeli composer. Hajdu reworked many of the songs on this album over the years, but each version on this album represents a fresh interpretation in collaboration with Cantor Asher Hainovitz. One of most successful of these is the Raza Deshabat, based on the music of Cantor Pierre Pinchik. The intensity of the presentation and the tasteful integration of instrumental and vocal music in this familiar cantorial piece will remind listeners of the musical power in classical lieder. The songs on this album are just as powerful. Eliyahu Schleifer’s footnoted commentary in the Hebrew and English booklet are illuminating. Recommended for home and all libraries.
Judith S. Pinnolis, School of Jewish Music, Hebrew College
Lukin, Michael. Vemen Vestu Zingen, Vemen?: Leibu Levin Performs in Yiddish: Selected Archival Recordings from Bukovina, USSR and Israel. 2015. Anthology of Music Traditions in Israel, 25. Jewish Music Research Centre, Jerusalem, Israel. $20.00. AMTI 0115.
Michael Lukin’s herculean task of collecting, sorting, and selecting archival recordings of Leibu Levin (1914-1983) resulted in this excellent Jewish Music Research Centre CD. Leibu Levin set music to many great Yiddish and Hebrew poems, including those of Itzik Manger, Jacob Glatstein, Abraham Reisen, Chaim Grade and Zelik Barditshever, often adapting or altering their texts. Levin’s art results not only in traditional “song” but includes a declamatory style that is part melodic and part spoken poetry; each style encompassing a deep interpretation of the texts. Many of these archival recordings have a nature akin to field recordings sung a capella, or in staged poetry declamations, or are even improvisatory, while others are from concerts or recitals with accompaniment. Levin’s rough, yet disarmingly sensitive voice, betrays him as someone who endured through the Holocaust and imprisonment under Stalin in labor camps. Tossed around by the world, Lukin notes that Levin’s “true homeland was his singing.” Levin’s oeuvre is extensive, but he relied on others to write musical notation for him, (if songs were transcribed at all). Therefore, until recently, many of his songs were available only because of recordings that survived. Levin lived his last decade in Israel at a time when Yiddish was considered a vanishing memory. Thus, this salvaging of his works and release of his recordings by JMRC will give scholars and Yiddish preservationists fertile soil for years. English translations from the Yiddish are by Itzik Gottesman in a booklet with Russian, English, and Hebrew translations and commentary.
Judith S. Pinnolis, School of Jewish Music, Hebrew College

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