24 February 2008
Review: Hilda Bronstein Sings Yiddish Songs Old And New
I frequently write about new, young artists and their approach to Yiddish song. The case with Hilda Bronstein is quite different. While Yiddish Songs seems to be her first release, she has a lifetime of experience with the language as the daugher of Polish immigrants. She devoted much of her life to family and career, only recently returning to Yiddish song after meeting Merlin and Polina Shepherd and collaborating to make this album. On this album she shows her command of Yiddish by using both the Polish and Litvish dialects.
The liner notes state “The songs on this album form a vibrant and colourful patchwork, each piece capturing some facet of the lives of East European Jewry- they are the expression of the very soul of a people from its darkest hours to moments of ecstatic joy.” That aptly sums up what this recording has to offer. Everything from joyous freylekhs, waltzes, and tangos to mournful songs of loss and yearning.
My favorite song on the album is Zingt Oyf Yidish, by Arkady Gendler. Written after the breakup of the Soviet Union, it celebrates the joy of being able to freely sing in Yiddish.
Other notable songs are Mayn Shtetele Belz and Dos Kleyne Tsigaynerl, both familiar, yet get a fresh, heartfelt treatment here.
A word about the musical accompaniment by the Merlin Shepherd Quartet. They are a perfect fit for Hilda’s voice on this album. The Quartet has the ability to blend perfectly into whatever style is called for on each song. Merlin has been one of my favorite Clarinetists for a long time, and he lends his signature sound here in a very tasteful way. The Quartet plays with delicacy and understatement on the slower songs, but then breaks out with unabashed joy on the faster ones. It seems as though Shepherd and Bronstein have found a framework for their music that showw both in their best light.
The engineering quality on this recording is outstanding, thanks to the Production/Engineering/Mixing efforts of Pablo Carcamo. The mix sounded great on everything from my home theater to earbuds to computer speakers. The instruments and vocals are clear and distinct, with a good sound stage and depth of tonal quality.
The CD insert booklet is very well done, and at 32 pages, covers a lot of ground. The liner notes are printed in English, German, French, and Spanish, and there are full song lyrics in both Yiddish and English.
If you’re a fan of Yiddish song, you will no doubt enjoy this album. I’ve been listening to a number of Yiddish albums recently, and this rates as one of the best.
Hilda Bronstein Sings Yiddish Songs
Old And New
ARC Music EUCD 2054
1. Bialystok (words & music: unknown) - 3:16
2. Oyfn Veg Shteyt a Boym (words: Itsik Manger, music: sometimes credited to P. Laskovski) - 4:00
3. S'iz Finster in Gas (words: Meir Harats, music: Efim Chorny) - 2:26
4. Avreml der Marvikher (words & music: Mordecai Gebirtig) - 4:45
5. Melokhe - Melukhe (words & music: Zelig Berdichever) - 5:27
6. Ven Der Regn Zipt in Droysn (words: Mendl Lifshits, music: Efim Chorny) - 2:44
7. Gelibte (words: unknown, music: Egan) - 3:45
8. Dos Lidl Fun Goldenem Land (words & music: Mordecai Gebirtig) - 3:16
9. Zingt Oyf Yidish (words & music: Arkady Gendler) - 3:39
10. Di Sapozhkelekh (trad.) - 3:27
11. Praven Veln Mir a Khasene (words & music: Aaron Lebedeff) - 3:01
12. Dos Kleyne Tsigaynerl (words: Itsik Manger, music: Herts Rubin) - 3:40
13. Ikh Vel Dikh Keyn Mol Nisht Farbaytn (words & music: unknown) - 2:10
14. Mayn Shtetele Belz (words: Jacob Jacobs, music: Alexander Olshanetsky) - 4:34
15. A Vogn Shikh (words: Avrom Sutzkever, music: Tomà? Novotn?) - 2:37
16. Zing Brider Zing (words & music: unknown) - 5:06
Playing Time: 58:39 min