Monthly Archives: March 2002

Mordechai Gebirtig: His Poetic and Musical Legacy

Edited by Gertrude Schneider

A biography by Sara Rosen about Gebirtig (17-38) gives a very good picture of the life of the composer. Included in the book are songs with score, and poems and songs with only the texts surviving. Also included in the introductory section are pieces that the editor speculates are written by Gerbirtig.

Mordechai Gebirtig was a folk composer of Yiddish song who lived in and around Crakow, Poland, and died during the Holocaust. He was a poor carpenter who was self-taught in music and composed songs completely by ear, remembering them all in his head. Because he was illiterate in music, friends notated his songs. Despite the handicaps, Gebirtig’s (also spelled Gebertig) songs grew wildly popular and were picked up, even in the United States, to become part of folk, popular theater and sheet music repertoire.…

The Undying Flame: Ballads and Songs of the Holocaust

By Jerry Silverman

Subtitle reads: “110 Songs in 16 Languages with Extensive Historical Notes, Illustrations, Piano Arrangements, Guitar Chords and Singable English translations. Includes a CD of 14 Songs”.

The songs are in “Yiddish, German, Hebrew, Spanish, French, Dutch, Italian, Serbo-Croatian, Ladino, Greek, Norwegian, Czech, Polish, Russian, Hungarian and English.” Texts appear in each language’s transliteration and English translations. An introduction to each song is given. Often there are illlustrations or other documentation that accompany a song. Histories of the songs are given if known. Authors of texts and composers are attributed when known.

An announcement about this book on HaSafran from Aviva Astrinsky states that this is “a major collection of Holocaust music. Most of the songs have never appeared in print before. Over 300 pages.
The book is divided into three main sections:

  1. The Gathering Storm: 1933-1939
  2. Shoah: 1940 – 1945
  3. Kaddish: A Post-War Retrospective


Sephardisches Liederbuch (The Sephardic Songbook): 51 Judenspanische Lieder (51 Judeo-Spanish Songs)

Collected and edited by Aron Saltiel With Transcriptions and an introduction by Joshua Horowitz

The Sephardic Songbook is an academic work, based on original fieldwork taken between 1976 and 1996 in Bat-Yam, Sarajevo, Thessaloniki, and Istanbul among other places. The transcriptions are based on vocal traditions taken from informants, usually performed without any accompaniment. The book attempts to “be true to” the performance style of the informants. Standard notation is used. Harmonies are not provided in order to preserve the “modal character of most of the songs”.

An extensive and detailed introduction discusses the difficult issues surround vocal style, modal performance practicies, tempi, meter and rhythm, vocal ornamentation, microtonality and other factors affecting the true nature of the works.

The Songbook is completely bilingual in German and English, providing translations into both German and English for each song, as well as the text of the Introduction and the ‘Annotations’ description section at the back of the book.…