Der Rabbi hat uns befohlen, fröhlich zu sein > The Rabbi has told us to be happy. That's the title of the seventh track in this cycle of Yiddish songs assembled as a kind of emotive parallel to Franz Schubert's 'Winterreise' > Winter Journey. And yes, there are some 'happy' moments in this cycle, despite the pervasive sorrow of the Jewish experience in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Most of the poems set to music here are sorrowful to the bone, telling of exile, persecution, exclusion, and postponement of dreams. Like the paintings of Marc Chagall, however, this music has a way of expressing endurance and vitality even in the darkest hours. I'm very sure that Jewish listeners, and 'Goyim' like myself with Jewish connections, will be moved profoundly by both the poems and the music; whether other listeners will be equally touched will depend on their sensitivity.
Why the Schubert connection? You'll even find one of Schubert's most memorable songs from Winterreise - Der Lindenbaum - sung in Yiddish translation on this CD. Listening to the 23 songs and their piano accompaniment, you'll certainly hear one explanation; nearly all of the dozen or so composers were obviously influenced by Schubert. But then, virtually every composer of 'Lieder' with piano accompaniment has been influenced by Schubert, who all but invented the genre. Let's be honest: none of these songs match the standard set by Schubert, but some of them are exquisite pieces in their own right.
Bass-baritone Mark Glanville explains the connection on his terms in the CD notes. He tells of being inspired, as a child, by hearing the Schubert Lieder sung by the great Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, which inspired him to pursue a career in music. In fact, he sang Die Winterreise in recitals as a student at Oxford. Since those days, he continues, he has found a love of the Yiddish language and its poetry, and discovered that when he includes such Yiddish songs in his concerts, audiences respond to him singing more emotively. Glanville is an articulate writer as well as a singer. He is not another Fischer-Dieskau vocally -- I don't think he would claim to be -- but he has solid vocal technique and a profound sense of the vocal traditions of Jewish life.
I grabbed this CD on the recommendation of the previous reviewer, Robin Friedman, to whom I am grateful.