Archive for February 18, 2015

Jewish Music in Post-War Germany, Part 1

Jewish music once hand political meaning; the first Germans to sing Yiddish songs in the 1960s were young leftist who were disillusioned with the older generations´s silcence about the Holocaust. Anything that broached the topic of Judaism in post-war Germany then was taboo; to hear the sounds of amurdered Eastern European culture resurrected on German stages was truly a shock. “Each Yiddish song was potentially a provocation to our fathers´ generation, was a political demonstration”, writes the musicolgist Wolfgang Martin Stroh, who was present at some of the early performances. And there were other political messages, too; in the 1970s, for example, East germans used the genre to blow a raspberry at their Communist government, which was anti-Zionist.

The 1960s were a time of social upheaval the world over, and Germany was no exception. The children of the 1940s were now old enough to wonder what had happened during the war, and they were not getting many answers from their parents. Though American hippies were able to turn to their own history for ideals of labour and egalitarianism, Germans had no such luxury. Much of their history was tainted by association; the Nazis had appropriated swathes of German culture for their own purposes.

German folksongs were especially suspect. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the Volkslied was used to stitch together the patchwork principalities and duchies that formed the new German nation. As with other newly-formed nations and nationalities in nineteenth-centruy Europe, belief in a common mythology helped unify people. Previously disparate groups were brought together with tales of a shared heritage. German folk song was thus inextricably bound up with nationalism, and nationalism had a nasty aftertaste after the Second World War. “Ever since folk songs were taken over by the Nazis… few Germans have been able to sing them with a clean conscience”, musicians Hein and Oss Kröher wrote in 1969. If the German folk song was verboten to the younger generation, they would need to take their cues form other tradtions, and they did. Judaism was one of those traditions. The culture of the victims was not tainted by association with the Nazis. Yiddish was somewaht understandable to the German ear. And besides, Yiddish was fun to sing.

One of the most important early interpreters of jewish music in Germany was Peter Rohland. Here´s his EP “Der Rebbe zingt” from 1963.

01. Un as der Rebbe zingt
02. Fahr jich mir arois
03. Bei mein Rebben iz gewesen
04. Du Maydele, du fayns
05. Shtil die Nacht iz oysgesh

Peter Rohland – Der Rebbe zingt – Jiddische Volkslieder und Chansons – Peter Rohland und Ensemble (EP, Thorofon, 1963)
(192 kbps, cover art included)

Thanks to for the original upload.


Playwright, poet and lyricist Bertolt Brecht was among the most controversial figures ever to impact musical theatre; an avowed Marxist, he often worked in tandem with composer Kurt Weill to create one of the most provocative bodies of work ever staged. Brecht was born February 10, 1898 in Augsburg, Bavaria; while attending Munich University, he was drafted to serve as a medic in World War I, later forging a career as a writer. His early Expressionist dramas -“Trommeln in der Nacht”, “Baal” and “Im Dickicht der Stadte” – reflected his anti-establishment leanings, as well as an obsession with violence; he then spent the majority of the 1920s touring the cabaret circuits of Germany and Scandinavia, often courting further controversy over the outspoken politics and nihilistic edge of his songs.


In 1928 Brecht earned his greatest theatrical success with “Die Dreigroschenoper”, a musical adaptation of John Gay’s “The Beggar’s Opera” featuring music composed by Weill; like the previous year’s Mann Ist Mann and 1929’s “Mahagonny”, it spotlighted the playwright’s gift for incisive satire of bourgeois sensibilities. By 1933, Brecht – exiled to Denmark in the wake of the Reichstag fire – had acquired an international reputation on the strength of work like “The Threepenny Opera”, which opened in an English-language version on Broadway. An outspoken critic of the Nazis, his plays, poems and radio dramas of the period attacked the Hitler regime with thinly-veiled contempt; finally, in 1941 he was forced to flee to Hollywood to escape the Nazis’ wrath, settling there to write works including Der Kaukasische Kreidekreis and Leben des Galilei. In 1947 Brecht was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee for his pro-Communist beliefs; he then moved to East Berlin, where he established his own theater, the Berliner Ensemble. He died on August 14, 1956.

Eric Bentley (born September 14, 1916) is a British-born American critic, playwright, singer, editor and translator.
Beginning in 1953, Bentley taught at Columbia University and simultaneously was a theatre critic for The New Republic. Known for his blunt style of theatre criticism, Bentley incurred the wrath of playwrights Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, both of whom threatened to sue him for his unfavorable reviews of their work. From 1960-1961, Bentley was the Norton professor at Harvard University.

Bentley is considered one of the preeminent experts on Bertolt Brecht, whom he met at UCLA as a young man and whose works he has translated extensively. He edited the Grove Press issue of Brecht’s work, and recorded two albums of Brecht’s songs for Folkways Records, most of which had never before been recorded in English.

In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.

Bentley became an American citizen in 1948, and currently lives in New York City.

The album “Bentley on Brecht” was recorded in New York City, 1962 and released on Riverside Records in the same year. It contains songs and poems written by Bertolt Brecht read and sung by Eric Bentley, accompanied on harmonium and piano.

Eric Bentley – Bentley On Brecht (1962)
(320 kbps, cover art included)

Hanns Eisler was a gifted composer who became an “unperson” in the United States after he was forced to leave in 1948 as “an undesirable alien”. He is increasingly popular in Europe, where his very diverse and often inventive music is reaching a new generation of listeners. Eisler reacted against the late-Romantic tradition of “art for art’s sake” and instead argued that music must have a social function, that music should be engaged in the struggle for human liberation. So he was closely associated with the political theater of Bertolt Brecht and other radical writers, and was one of the first serious composers to experiment with the new technologies of radio, film and recording. At the same time, he wrote extraordinary chamber music and was arguably one of the best composers of German concert lieder in the 20th century.

Eric Bentley (born September 14, 1916) is a critic, playwright, singer, editor and translator.Bentley met Bertolt Brecht at UCLA as a young man and is considered one of the pre-eminent experts on Brecht, whose work he has translated. He edited the Grove Press issue of Brecht’s work, and made two albums of Brecht songs for the legendary Folkways Records label, most of which had never been recorded in English before.

Eric Bentley’s “Songs of Hanns Eisler” was released on the Folkways label in 1964.

Eric Bentley – Songs Of Hanns Eisler (1964)
(320 kbps, front cover included, booklet in pdf format included)

“East German Revolution, Hanns Eisler, A Composer’s Portrait” was released in 1990 on the small PILZ label. It is no longer available due to the bankruptcy of this label.

This album contains “Sturm-Suite für Orchester” (Großes Rundfunkorchster Leipzig, directed by Adolf Fritz Guhl), “Sätze für Nonett” 8members of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchesters Leipzig), “Sonate für Violine und Klavier” (Gustv Schmahl, violin; Herbert Kaliga, piano) and “Fünf Orchesterstücke” (Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Leipzig, directed by Herbert Kegel) – live recordings of a concert broadcast on June 14th, 1973.

1. Storm – Suite For Orchestra {#1,Sturm-Allegro} 1:09
2. Storm – Suite For Orchestra {#2,Pantomime-Melodram-AllegrettoSpirito} 1:58
3. Storm – Suite For Orchestra {#3,Bequem} 1:09
4. Storm – Suite For Orchestra {#4,PocoLarghetto} 1:40
5. Storm – Suite For Orchestra {#5,AllegroConFuoco} 1:58
6. Storm – Suite For Orchestra {#6,AllegroAgitato} 1:13
7. Storm – Suite For Orchestra {#7,Lento} 1:08
8. Storm – Suite For Orchestra {#8,Destinado} 1:19
9. Movements For Nonet,OpPosth {#1,Allegro”Allegretto”Andante} 4:18
10. Movements For Nonet,OpPosth {#2,Allegretto} 2:50
11. Movements For Nonet,OpPosth {#3,Allegro} 3:47
12. Movements For Nonet,OpPosth {#4,QuasiRezitativo-Moderato} 2:27
13. Movements For Nonet,OpPosth {#5,Presto”Treibend”AndanteConMoto} 2:18
14. Movements For Nonet,OpPosth {#6,AllegroModerato} 5:24
15. Movements For Nonet,OpPosth {#7,Presto”Treibend”Energico,AllaMarcia} 3:11
16. Reise Sonate {#1,ConSpirito} 4:23
17. Reise Sonate {#2,Intermezzo-AndanteSemplice} 3:48
18. Reise Sonate {#3,AllegroSpirito} 4:20
19. Five Orchestral Pieces {#1,Andante} 3:49
20. Five Orchestral Pieces {#2,Allegro} 2:10
21. Five Orchestral Pieces {#3,KleinePassacaglia} 1:22
22. Five Orchestral Pieces {#4,Presto} 1:19
23. Five Orchestral Pieces {#5,Finale-Improvisation} 2:23

East German Revolution – Hanns Eilser – A Composer´s Portrait
(192 kbps, front cover included)

 Download Liner Notes


A1 The Song Of The Worst Thing
A2 Ballad On The Poet Francois Villon
A3 Ballad Of The Letter-Carrier William L. Moore
A4 The Barlach Song
A5 Nothing To It!
A6 Comrade Julian Grimau
A7 Ballad Of The Man
A8 Legend Of The Soldier In World War III
B1 Ballad Of Fredi Rohsmeisl
B2 Do Not Wait For Better Times!
B3 Early Morning
B4 The Singer’s Inaugural Address
B5 Toys
B6 To The Old Comrades
B7 Reckless Abuse
B8 German: A Winter’s Tale
B9 December 1965
B10 Soldatenmelodie
(320 kbps, cover art included)
This is a collection of political songs from Vietnam, South Africa, Spain, Chile and the GDR. With the titel “Canto Libre” it refers to Victor Jara and the “Nueva canción” movement.

Nueva canción (Spanish for ‘new song’) is a movement and genre within Latin American and Iberian music of folk music, folk-inspired music and socially committed music. Nueva canción is widely recognized to have played a powerful role in the social upheavals in Portugal, Spain and Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s.

Bringing together artisits from these countries, this album was intended as a support for the global fights against Imperialism. Artists representing revolutionary movements from all around the world were presented together with artistis taking part in the East German “Singebewegung” to express the world-wide anti-imperialist solidarity between the “fighting people”.

This album is an interesting attempt linking the GDR song movement (“Singebewegung”) with music form different kind of international revolutionary movements. We will come back to this connection with some more posts in the next weeks…


01 – Thanh nien Ho Chi Minh – Der Hügel der zehn Helden
02 – Gerry Wolff – Ballade von Ho Chi Minh
03 – Quilapayun – Por Vietnam
04 – Oktoberklub – Saigon ist frei
05 – Cynthia Nokwe – Nongqongqo
06 – Cynthia Nokwe – Sizobadubula ngembayimbayi
07 – Santocas – Poder Popular
08 – Oktoberklub – Der Tag der großen Arbeit
09 – Victor Jara – Canto Libre
10 – Inti Illimani – La Seunda Inderpendencia
11 – Jahrgang 49 – Für unser Chile
12 – Canzoniere Internationale – Elegia por Salvador allende
13 – Joan und José – A la huelga
14 – José Alfonso – Grândola via morena
15 – Oktoberklub – Nada para Pinochet

VA – Canto Libre – Freier Gesang (Amiga 1977)
(320 kbps, cover art included)

The term “nueva canción” was first mooted in public at a key event which took place in Cuba from 29 July until 10 August 1967: the “Encuentro de la Canción Protesta”. This first international meeting of artist performing protest songs was organized by the “House of Americas”

Fifty musicians from eighteen countries were given the opportunity to hear each other perform, exchange ideas and experiences, discuss the role of singer and song and establish friendships and contacts. Artist from four continents were brought together at a time of political upheavel in different parts of the world.
The appearance of Gerry Wolff, film actor and singer in the GDR, is another clue for the connection between the GDR song movement (“Singebewegung”) and international revolutionary artists as mentioned before in the “Canto Libre” posting.
Daniel Viglietti, who participated in those days, said that “the meeting was an opportunity to discover that if you had fallen into the error of thinking we were alone, we were not alone”. Singing in many languages, artists from all around the world expressed solidarity with the oppresed people and their fight for a better world.
The various stages reached in the development of movement in individual countries with different economic, social and political conditions and musical cultures had resulted in the usage of different terms: “Canción protesta”, “canción comprometida”, “canción politica revolucionaria” and “nueva canción”. Other names used before and after include “canción folklórica”, “cancion popular”, “canción politica”, “canciones de lucha y esperanze”, “canto libre” and “canto nuevo”.
Musicians, especially those who are members of, or allied to, the Communist Party, met intermittently before and after the Cuban “Encuentro” at Youth Festivals held every four years in the Socialst countries, as they also do at “International Festivals of Political Songs” held annualy in the GDR, at “Victor Jara Festivals”, “Concert for Peace”, various solidarity concerts and more recently “Nueva Canción” and “Canto Nuevo” Festivals held in Latin America. At the Cuban meeting, an “Encuentro”, not a Festival, it was resolved that song should play an important role in the liberation struggles against North American imperialism and against colonialism, as it was agreed that song possessed enormous strength to communicate with the people and break down barriers, such as those of illiteracy, and taht in consequence it should be a weapon at the service of the people, not a consumer product used by capitalism to alienate them. Protest singers (as they continued to call themselves despite the debate) should be engaged in a constant enriching search for artistic quality, in itself a revolutionary activity. They should work amongst their people, confronting problems within their societies. For some of those involved this merely reflected what they wer doing already.
01. Me gustan los estudiantes – Ángel Parra
02. A yime yo be Singing – Jean Lewis
03. Canción para mi América – Daniel Viglietti
04. Certainly Lord – Julius Lester
05. Mia cara moglie – Ivan Della Mea
06. Hasta siempre – Carlos Puebla
07. The ballad of Ho Chi Minh – Ewan Mccoll
08. Porque los pobres no tienen – Isabel Parra
09. Epigrama – Luis Cilia
10. The cutty wren – John Faulkner, Sandra Kerr y Terry Yarnell
11. Mi honda es la de David – Oscar Chávez
12. Vous – Martha Jean Claude
13. Bella ciao – Giovanna Marini, Elena Morandi e Ivan Della Mea
14. El pobre y el rico – Los Olimareños
15. Lettera del condennatto a morte – Elena Morandi
16. Juventud – Carlos Molina
17. Le coq chant – Onema Djamba Pascal
18. Lullaby for the times – Sandra Kerr
19. El mensú – Ramón Ayala
20. San Sang Ban – Tran Drung y Pham Duong
21. Der Hammer – Gerry Wolff
22. Coplas al compadre Juan Miguel – Alfredo Zitarrosa
23. Diguem no – Raimon
24. Coplera del viento – Oscar Matus y Armando Tejada Gómez
25. Hitler Ain’t Dead – Peggy Seeger
26. Coplas del pajarito – Rolando Alarcón
27. Hell no – Barbara Dane
(192 kbps, cover art included)

Kurt Weill was both well respected and popular in his own day, and in the years since his death in 1950 his reputation has only increased. As a result, many of the songs on “The Unknown Kurt Weill “(recorded in 1981) are no longer quite so unknown.
Perhaps that’s because Weill’s melodies are so catchy that they take up residence in your brain after just a listen or two. No wonder “Mack the Knife” (not included here) became an enormous pop hit for Bobby Darin. But crossover appeal aside, these are songs that beg for individual interpretation.

Teresa Stratas is a Weill specialist, having been tapped by Weill’s widow – the gravel-voiced chanteuse Lotte Lenya – to carry the musical torch. The notoriously volatile Stratas is no longer singing (due to a faulty throat operation), but on this recording, she sounds terrific, sinking her teeth into stunning songs like “Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib” (Ballad of the Soldier’s Wife) and “Nanna’s Lied” (both with texts by Bertolt Brecht).

Of this production Harold Lawrence writes “Easily one of the outstanding early digital releases is this Nonesuch recording of 14 songs of Kurt Weill’s theater music. The soprano, Teresa Stratas, who made such a deep impression in the role of Jenny in the Metropolitan Opera’s revival of “Mahagonny”, sings 14 songs by Weill in this release, Kurt Weill’s widow, Lotte Lenya, was in the audience on opening night and wrote Miss Stratas that ‘nobody can sing Weill’s music better than you do.’ She offered Stratas a number of unpublished songs that she had guarded since her husband’s death in 1950. The result was a New York concert in January 1980 in which these songs formed the nucleus of the program. The event attracted the interest of Jac Holzman, Nonesuch’s enterprising director. Holzman lost no time in signing up Teresa Stratas and pianist Richard Woitach to commit the concert to disc. The album is a fascinating collection, spanning some 20 years. Teresa Stratas sings with total understanding of the different sides of the composer and the recording, on Nonesuch Records, ranks as one of the best early digital efforts.”
This recording is a revelation because it testifies to Weill’s heritage and place in music: from the profane to the metaphysical, the seedy to the classic, it connects Weill to both the German dance- and concert-halls. Stratas interpretation places this music in the Berg tradition, using a wide range of color and emotion that rushes the melodious songs at you in a brilliant and immediate way. This is an album that I would grab first in a fire and I believe is a true classic in recording history.

Teresa Strata – The Unknown Kurt Weill (1981)

This is a concert recording from 1987, July 3, in Cologne, West Germany. Lin Jaldati performs both traditional and composed Yiddish songs, accompanied by her husband Eberhard Rebling on piano and by their daughters Kathinka Rebling on violin and Jalda Rebling, vocals.

Lin Jaldati was sent to concentration camps when the Nazis occupied Holland. She didn’t speak Yiddish, but learned Yiddish songs from her fellow prisoners. Jaldati survived Auschwitz; being a communist, she came to East Germany to help establish a socialist German state. She married Eberhard Rebling, a German communist who later became a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and started to perform Yiddish songs for a German audience with Rebling accompanying her on piano.

Later they were joined by their daughters Katinka and Jalda. Lin Jaldati dedicated her art and her life to communist East Germany. This didn’t prevent her from being banned from performing in the late sixties; the hysteria had gone so far that even performing Yiddish songs was interpreted as a pro-Israel statement. For a long time Lin Jaldati, who was highly accepted by what later became the East German Yiddish and klezmer scene, was the only Yiddish performer in East Germany.

Lin Jaldati – Jiddische Lieder – Live, Köln, 3. Juli 1987
(192 kbps, front & back cover included)

Peter Rohland (* 22. February 1933, † 5. April 1966) was a German singer, singer-songwriter and a folk music researcher. Together with Hein and Oss Kröher he initiated the “Burg Waldeck Festivals”.

Peter Rohland investigated, considerably affected by the work of Wolfgang Steinitz, the song property of the vagrants and the revolution of 1848, as well as jewish songs. He was the first chansonnier to sing jewish songs in West Germany after the Holocaust.


01. Un as der Rebbe Alimelech
02. Fohr ijch mir arois
03. Hot majne homntash
04. Wolt ijch sejn a rov
05. Mai komashma lon
06. Jich nehm dos peckel
07. Frateg far nacht
08. Baj dem shtetl
09. Bin ijch mir a schnajderl
10. Jomme, jomme, shpil mir a lidele
11. Un as der Rebbe singt
12. Hot der tate fun jaridl
13. Tzen Bridder
14. Amol is gewen a majsse
15. Tumbalalalaika
16. Unter a klajn bajmele
17. Du majdele, du shajns
18. Lo mir ale singen
19. Baj majn Rebben is gewen
20. Un as de jontefdige tejg
21. Shlof, majn sun
22. Unter de chirwes von Pojln
23. Shtil, die nacht ist ojsgeshternt
24. S’ brent, bridderlech, s’ brent

Peter Rohland – Jiddische Lieder
(192 kbps, cover art included)