Leo Zeitlin Chamber Music Comes to Life in New Critical Edition

Leo Zeitlin Chamber Music The music world involved in the revival of Jewish national music or recovery of early twentieth century art music of the first order will be dazzled by the new critical edition of Leo Zeitlin’s Chamber Music published by AR Editions, and edited by musicologist and professors Paula Eisenstein Baker and Robert S. Nelson. Texts are presented in original Yiddish, Hebrew, transliterations and English translation.

But who was Leo Zeitlin? It’s not a name in currency today, but is likely to be more familiar now that musicians will have a chance to perform this music, and it is highly recommended that college and university libraries purchase the volume. All but two of the selections are class art pieces based on Jewish themes.

Zeitlin, also known as Leyb or Lev Tseytlin or in Russian as Lev Mordukhovich Tseitlin, was born in Pinsk (now part of Belarus) in 1884. He went to Odessa to study music, studying violin and viola. In 1904, he auditioned for admittance to the St. Petersburg Conservatory and was accepted. He then went on to study composition with Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov. While there, Zeitlin joined the Society for Jewish Folk Music, a group devoted to the creation of new art works based on “ethnic” Jewish music and also serving as a publishing house. Four of Zeitlin’s work were to be published by the Society. He left St. Petersburg and traveled to the Ukraine where he was appointed to the Imperial Music School in Ekaterinoslav (today Dnipropetrovsk) and also conducted there. After a stay in Vilna, he left for the US and arrived in 1923. In the US he worked as arranger, composer and violinist. In 1929, one of his pieces, Palestina, “a dramatic overture on Jewish themes,” was performed for a radio audience estimated at over six million.

Along with a biography is the fascinating story of finding the works of Leo Zeitlin a half century later by Paula Eisenstein Baker. She traced down the materials, correctly identifying him as the composer of Eli Zion. The introduction includes discussion of the style of the composer in all its facets, and critical evaluations of the works, writing: “By any standard, Zeitlin’s work is not just technically proficient, but always musical and expressive, and –above all–consistently inventive and imaginative.” Detailed performance, historic and evaluative notes on each piece add an extraordinarily helpful resource to any performer. Works include piano vocal score and voice with quartet or chamber groups. For more details about various forces for the 32 items in this volume, refer to: https://www.areditions.com/rr/rrn/n051.html at the AR Editions website.

About the editors:
Paula Eisenstein Baker is an adjunct instructor of cello and chamber music at the University of St. Thomas, Houston, and has published several articles about Zeitlin and the Society for Jewish Folk Music.

Robert Nelson is professor emeritus of music theory and composition at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston. He received his DMA in composition from the University of Southern California, where he studied with Ingolf Dahl. His compositions and arrangements have been performed world-wide, and he has co-authored five widely adopted theory textbooks.

For those who read Yiddish, there is an article about this volume in the Yiddish Forverts