Schubert’s cycle of love forlorn retold in Yiddish song
Nimbus 6191 
Mark Glanville (bass-bar)
Alexander Knapp (piano)
Total playing time 61.35
'Di Sheyne Milnerin' - A Yiddish 'Die Schöne Müllerin'
'Di Sheyne Milnerin' is a specially devised cycle of songs from the Yiddish repertoire, only the second time a collection of Yiddish song has been forged into a cycle with a coherent dramatic trajectory. A stark contrast to our first, Holocaust-focused programme, 'A Yiddish Winterreise', it allows us to explore and reveal different aspects of the Yiddish tradition. As in Schubert's original, 'Die Schöne Müllerin' (the beautiful miller girl) from which it takes its name, it tells a story of unrequited love. Our Jewish hero, though also a miller, is an older man with more than a little of Don Quixote about him, prone to tip at his own windmills and women who fit his idealised notion of love. Does he ever actually make contact with Reyzele, the object of his affection, or does he commune with her only in his dreams? Whatever the case, his sense of pain at being rejected in favour of the thief (replacing the hunter of the original cycle) who has stolen her from him is the same.
My own background is classical, therefore the songs are not performed in the customary folk style, but in the manner one might expect of a Lieder recital. Our aim, as before, is to introduce this wonderful music to as wide an audience as possible, especially one brought up listening to classical European repertoire that may be unfamiliar with the Yiddish tradition. Once again, the programme serves as an act of reconciliation and an acknowledgment of the rich symbiosis between the German and Jewish cultures which was one of the khurbn's many intangible victims. As one who was brought up in the shadow of the Holocaust, during which members of my mother's family were murdered, the road towards forgiveness was not always easy and 'Di Sheyne Milnerin' is a further step along that path.
In some instances we have used arrangements and compositions by important Jewish musicians and composers of the past such as Janot Roskin and Lazar Weiner, but our intention is always to extend and enhance that great tradition, so keeping it alive and vibrant. Eight of the songs in 'Di Sheyne Milnerin' are given in completely new, original arrangements by the eminent Jewish musicologist and pianist, Alexander Knapp and one of the songs, 'Himen', a setting of the eponymous Abraham Sutzkever poem, is an entirely original composition by Alexander Knapp. It serves, among other things, as our tribute to the great Yiddish poet in the year of his death.
Although my parents came to London as refugees from Vienna, and therefore spoke German as their mother-tongue, I have, for many years, been attracted to the distinctive and compelling colour and flavour of the Yiddish language, as spoken by the many cantors and singers whom I have had the pleasure of meeting through my work in Jewish music as performer and composer, musicologist and ethnomusicologist, for over four decades. Indeed, of the six dozen arrangements of Jewish music, sacred and secular, that I have composed since 1973, the last seventeen were composed at the most welcome invitation of Mark Glanville - creator and interpreter of the unique and inspired Yiddish song-cycles: 'A Yiddish Winterreise' and 'Di Sheyne Milnerin.'
The eight arrangements and one composition of mine incorporated among the 21 songs of Di Sheyne Milnerin reflect a number of musical influences: there are resonances of Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Rimski-Korsakov, Rachmaninov, Sibelius, Bloch, Messiaen, Gershwin, Klezmer and even Joe Loss, to name but a few. Though broadly tonal/modal in character, the harmonic language reveals frequently shifting tonal centres and chromatic dissonances, as well as hints of dodecaphony on the one hand and Eastern-Ashkenazi Nusach (modal system) on the other. Motifs generated by the vocal melody are often utilized in the accompaniment, sometimes in disguised forms (e.g. canons, inversions, retrogressions and retrograde inversions); and they are integral to the piano interludes - sometimes strident, sometimes meditative - that link one verse to another. Though the songs are mainly strophic, the arrangements are "through- composed". And since word-painting is a central feature of the style, melodies from the wider Jewish and Classical repertoires are occasionally introduced as counterpoints to the main themes in order further to emphasize particular associations of ideas. Whereas the melodic contour of each song is retained intact, occasional modifications of phrase length, rhythm and pulse have been introduced for expressive purposes. But it must be stressed that these are in no way intended as "improvements"; for the original version is in every case beautiful, authoritative and perfect. My wish is only to give special expression to those facets that appeal to me most immediately. The emotional range of the songs is vast and all-encompassing: from the liveliest humour to the deepest pathos. And I have tried to evoke all these moods by exploring the full range of the keyboard.
A few words about selected songs will suffice: Dodi li has a Middle-Eastern aroma, whereas Tumba is Jazzy. Bistu mit mir broygez introduces typical motifs of the Lern Steiger (Nusach Magen Avot) in order to suggest the Rabbi at prayer, whereas Himen quotes Kol sasson v'kol kallah from one of the Ashkenazi tunes for the choral section of the seventh of the Sheva Brachot (Seven Blessings of the Wedding Service), as well as the melody of the lullaby Yankele. And the last song of the cycle, Di Zun vet aruntergeyn, pays homage both to Ständchen by Schubert (whose 'Die Schöne Müllerin' is the Classical model for the whole cycle), and also to Warschawsky's 'Dem Milners Trern' - with which the recital begins.
Mark Glanville bass baritone
Mark Glanville read Classics and Philosophy at Oxford University before winning a scholarship to study singing at the RNCM and the National Opera Studio, going on to make his debut with Opera North. Roles for that company include The King of Clubs (Love for Three Oranges), the King (Aida), Nourabad (Pearl Fishers) and Father (The Jewel Box). For Scottish Opera he has sung Commendatore (Don Giovanni), for Lisbon Opera, New Israeli Opera and Opera Zuid The King of Clubs, and for Opera Omaha Ferrando (Il Trovatore.) On the concert platform he has performed as bass soloist with Lord Menuhin, Daniele Gatti, Pascal Tortelier, Sir David Willcocks and Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. Recordings include A Yiddish Winterreise, Donizetti's L'Assedio di Calais and Anna Bolena and Schubert Mass in G. His memoir The Goldberg Variations was shortlisted for the Wingate Prize for Jewish Literature and the National Sporting Club Award.
Alexander Knapp piano
Alex Knapp graduated from Selwyn College, Cambridge, with MA, MusB, and PhD degrees in music, and he has also been awarded ARCM, LRAM and HonARAM diplomas. Over a period of more than 40 years, he has published and lectured on the subject of Jewish music in the UK, Ireland, Holland, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Greece, Israel, USA, Russia, Eastern Siberia and China. As well as composing, arranging, conducting, broadcasting, and performing as pianist in the UK, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Russia and USA, Alex Knapp has been involved as consultant and accompanist to cantors and choirs on several commercial recordings of Jewish music. His set of Four Sephardi Songs (arranged for voice and piano) was published in New York in 1992, and his Elegy for String Orchestra in Jerusalem in 1997. In 1998, his anthology of essays on Jewish music was brought out in Chinese by the Music Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Arts in Beijing under the title Youtai Yinyue Lunwenji. Among numerous other articles, he has contributed entries on aspects of Jewish music to The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (second edition). He has been appointed to academic and administrative posts at Wolfson College, Cambridge; at London's Goldsmiths' College, Royal College of Music, City University; and most recently (1999-2006) to the Joe Loss Lectureship in Jewish Music at SOAS.
Dem milners trern (The Miller's Tears)
M Warschawsky, arr. Janot Roskin
For many years I've been a miller, watching the mill wheel and the years turn. At times I've had a little joy but now alone, unmarried and without children, I'm exiled from happiness. Where will I live now and who will look after me?
Mordechai Gebirtig arr. Sholom Secunda
In an attic, in a quiet house in the street, lives my dear Reyzele. Every evening I make my way there, give a whistle and call her. The window opens and her sweet voice tells me she'll be down soon. I go off happy, singing and cracking nuts, hear her approach, grab her and kiss her on the head. I love you so much dear Reyzele, and your mother, your street, your house, the stones you tread on. Now the street is silent again. Reyzele, come to me in my dreams.
Du shaynst vi di zun - (You shine like the sun)
Day and night I think of you and I'm happy when I hear your lovely voice. The day I saw you I fell in love with you. Darling, do I matter to you, were we meant for each other? I gave my heart to you when you told me, 'You shine like the sun and the moon. I love you, I swear it by them.'
Der nayer sher (The New Dance)
I'd like to be a rabbi but I have no Torah, a merchant but I have no goods, a teacher but I have no alphabet, a butcher but I have no knife, a matchmaker but I can't bring people together, a singer but I have no words. Play the new dance. I'm in love with a girl. I'd like to kiss her but am ashamed to before others. Give me a kiss when no one's around.
Dodi li (My Beloved is Mine)
N Chen, arr. A Knapp. (from 'The Song of Songs')
My beloved is mine, browsing among the lilies. Who is she rising from the desert drenched in frankincense and myrrh? You stole my heart my sister, my bride. Awake north and south winds. My beloved is mine.
Trad. arr. A Knapp
A girl sits on a stove sewing a silk dress. A boy flies in and pulls out the thread. 'Boy, that will cost you dear. I won't ask you where you're from but I won't release you. I'll hold you and love you.' The boy stays. Two of them now sit on the stove, and they're not sewing.
Trad. arr. Janot Roskin
'Knock, knock, open up! Are you asleep?' 'I'm not asleep but I won't open to you.' 'Knock, knock, open for me, my love!' 'Knock all you want but I won't. It's so windy and rainy and my silk dress will get wet.' 'You can take off your dress and hang it on the tree.' 'But what will I cover myself with and who will waken me?' 'The tree will cover you, a bird will waken you.'
Bistu mit mir broyges
Ofer Ben-Amots arr. A Knapp
Are you angry with me? I don't know why. You've looked miserable all day. If you want to know how much I love you, let's go to the rabbi. We'll give him a gift and he'll bless us with a good life. On the way home we'll stop at the market and I'll buy you a watch and chain and something special - a silk dress. Don't be angry any more. Set the table, sit down and eat with me and give me a kiss.
Nokh der Arbet - (Am Feierabend - After Work)
From 'Die Schöne Müllerin' by Franz Schubert, translated into Yiddish by Heather Valencia)
If I had a thousand arms I could turn all the millwheels powerfully, blow through the forest and haul all the rocks. Then the lovely miller girl would know how true I am. Ah! My arm is so weak even a youngster has more strength. There I sit with my workmates. The master says he's pleased and the lovely girl greets us all good night.
Shma Yisroel (Hear, O Israel!)
Hear, O Israel. Lord, Your world is great. Grant me one gift. Hear, O Israel is an old song. The Jew sings it in distress and at the point of death. Grant me Reyzele, the Jewish girl.
A Knapp (poem by Abraham Sutzkever)
Spring has popped its cork. I drink it drop-by-drop as a poplar drinks rain, a rainbow over melancholy. Your silence is soft enough to knead forms. What's forbidden in Eden is permitted here. I look into myself as through a window, so many selves, yours is the closest. Now is the time for song. I hear it grow in stone muscles. A wedding will fill the emptiness, night will be brighter than day and happy too. As sun melts the last snow, so sadness will dissolve under the wedding canopy. Two colours will mix to form a third which will master both. So two selves will mix and there will be no separation between hearts. At the meeting of two streams both our names will disappear.
A sheyn lid hob ikh gezungen (I have sung a beautiful song)
Trad. arr. Janot Roskin
I have sung a beautiful song. It causes me pain. Whoever has known false love understands my heartache. Better never to have been born. What is the best way to die, by knife or by gun?
Dem gonefs yikhes (The thief's genealogy)
Trad. arr. A Knapp
Why are you angry, Motkele? Perhaps you'd like to know your genealogy. Your father greases wagon-wheels, your mother steals fish, your brother is a card-shark, your sister lives with a Cossack, your uncle stands on street corners, your aunt is a pedlar, your brother sits in jail and as for your sister... your granddad is a butcher, your grandma is a bathhouse attendant but you, alone, are a bastard!
Tsvey taybelekh (Two doves)
Trad. arr. A Knapp
Two doves fly over the water and kiss each other. Cursed be the man who mixed himself up in our love. When you come to a far-off town, think of my voice. Don't drown yourself from sorrow. When you reach a distant town, remember my voice. Don't burn yourself from sorrow. Two doves fly over the water. They spread their wings. May no good befall the man who tore us apart.
Vu iz dos gesele (Where is the street?)
Trad. arr. A Knapp
Where are the street, the town, the woman that I loved. Here they are! Where is the brook, the mill, the village, the synagogue? Here they are! Inside the town my grief is heavy. It was all a dream. No street, no town, no woman I loved.
A gebet (A Plea)
Lord of the Universe, hear my heartfelt prayer. Repair the hole in my heart and grant me a little peace.
Ikh hob dikh tsu fil lib (I love you so much)
Now I'm left alone with my misery. My great love is marrying another, leaving me sad and alone. I have been tricked. I love you so much that I can't be angry with you. I gave you my heart, my soul and I'm wretched but I want no revenge.
Ongenumen zikh mit tsar (Filled with misery)
I'm filled with misery all day. Sweet dream, take my soul. When awake I see poverty and wretchedness; hardship seeks me. I beg you sweet night, fall. Give my poor heart some rest. Come quick, sweet dream and take me. I don't want to see what I see by day.
Es drimlen di lodns
Trad. arr. A Knapp
The shutters are drawing, the attic locked. A cat yawned at midnight, a cricket plays in the hearth, my beloved is cracking pumpkin seeds with the rabbi's wife. Play for one injured by life, for a young boy who doesn't want to go to school, for an old Jew who must die poor, for a broken stew skull. Scratch a plate, play for a big, juicy bagel. The shutters are drawing, the attic locked, a cat yawned, a herring laughed.
Di zun vet aruntergeyn
Ben Yomen, arr. A Knapp
The sun is falling behind the hill. Love will come gently to grief who sits on a golden stone and weeps for himself alone. The golden peacock will come and take us all to where longing is drawing us. Night comes, singing a lullaby, shuts our eyes to sleep in eternal rest.