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Howard Kissel
New York Daily News, March 2005

"An unusual document is "Abraham Ellstein's Yiddish Stage Songs," which is part of the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music on Naxos. These are lively, affecting, beautifully performed pieces."

Joe McLellan (music critic emeritus of The Washington Post), March 2005

"…quintessentially crossover."

Lawrence Toppman
Charlotte Observer, March 2005

"...bawdy enough to rank with the 'jelly roll' songs cut by black blues singers 70 years ago."

Paul Mitchinson, March 2005

"The vocals are exciting and virtuosic."

Richard Dyer
The Boston Globe, March 2005

"The tuneful, rhythmically captivating songs combine influences from Viennese operetta, gypsy music, Jewish popular and liturgical music, and American popular music of the period. Most of them are love songs, sweet, cynical, or sad; there are also streaks of anger and irony in some of them."

Robert Croan
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 2005

"Utterly delightful...

Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, October 2004

"Sheer delight! Adherents of music theatre must hear this glorious revival of music from a little known milieu. American Yiddish musical theatre flourished among the Jewish immigrant population and beyond during the period 1920-1949. While full orchestrations have in many cases disappeared or never existed the music has survived in fragmentary form. Full scores and parts have been reconstructed with every appearance of authenticity and loving care. In some cases the work has been done by reference to 78s and early LPs - much the same route has been taken by Morgan and Stromberg to revive lost film scores. Here six composers are showcased in a series of showstoppers from Lower Manhattan (Second Avenue) New York operetta.

These songs are saucy, smiling, swooning, sexy, sentimental and yes schmaltzy. Stylistic streams flow freely ... interacting with each other. Weimar decadence, Viennese operetta voices of Lehár and Robert Stolz, Klezmer, folk song, Brahmsian lullaby they collide, inter-breed and metamorphose. The music also reminds us that the early shows of Stephen Sondheim owed not a little to this genre. Try listening to A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Circus after hearing this disc.

In Ikh Zing (tr.4) which I have played at least fifteen ten times already for sheer pleasure, Robert Bloch knows how to use that yearning slightly nasal tone of voice so ringingly close to Dermota and Wunderlich. If Classic FM do not pick up this track they lack their much-vaunted ear for a winner. This song is a sure-fire recipe for goose-flesh and the prickle of hairs on the back of the neck.

Klezmer woodwind in Abi Gezunt and in Zog Es Mir Nokh Amol clarinet wheezes and wheedles. In fact the VCO’s clarinet deserves some sort of special award for getting his instrument to act, laugh, chuckle, caper and leer. Voz Geven - starts tense with gypsy paprika soon gives way to Straussian Danube an insinuating waltz. Zigeuner meets Klezmer in the hushed tension of the start of Oy Mame - however it is only a scene-setting foreword - this is really about a ducking and diving, swaying and sliding main section complete with the consummately idiomatic VCO clarinet. A supremely sweetened Brahmsian orchestration (think Hungarian Dances) crowns Nell Snaidas’s triumphantly lilting Zog Zog Zog Es Mir and the same flavour comes across in Mazl. The tragedy of Der Dishvasher presents a strain on Robert Abelson’s baritone which asks a lot when Abelson is asked to slip and curve the melodic line sauntering along the muezzin sway. Abelson nicely handles the few words of speech crowning the sad song of pride lost in squalor. The oily suggestive humour of Ikh bin a Boarder is slyly done by Bruce Adler - yipping and crooning - a tour de force of character singing. This is an all or nothing performance. The only reaction is Wow! Cimbalom underpins the gypsy haze in Der Alte Tsigayner. Campfire smoke gets in the eyes and at the back of the throat all to set up a wilder friss section with oompah brass, cantabile violin line - part Weimar part Budapest. These composers may have been Schmalz.

Recording is of the very best. Orchestra and singers have been extremely well chosen. It is divisive to choose but choose I will. Robert Bloch and Nell Snaidas are my current favourites.

The words are given in English only so there’s no chance to sing along - and believe me you want to. You can however get hold of the transliterated Yiddish and translations at:

This well documented and superbly recorded winner opens a door onto a piteously neglected area of the repertoire. If this is anything to go by this CD (and its successor will spell) the sort of revival symphonic film music made during the 1970s and Broadway shows made during the 1980s. We must hope for some complete score recordings as well."

American Record Guide, February 2004

"Nine singers, all excellent, do the honors...The Milken Archives commissioned new but historically considered orchestrations, which capture the Flavor of Yiddish Theater. The Vienna Chamber Orchestra evokes its ambience...I found this a joy, and because good music well played and interpreted is ecumenical, one not need to be Jewish to enjoy it. There a copious notes, including the texts of all the songs. Excellent sonics."

Howard Kissel
New York Daily News, December 2003

"An unusual document is "Abraham Ellstein's Yiddish Stage Songs," which is part of the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music on Naxos. These are lively, affecting, beautifully performed pieces."

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, December 2003

"In certain respects, this volume, and those that are to follow, may well come to represent the most important historical document of this entire project, for it resurrects a species of art form that, for all practical purposes, is now extinct...For some, this CD will be a nostalgia trip down memory lane; for others, a real discovery of the rich treasures of a once vibrant Jewish era. Performances are all wonderful."

Ken Smith
Newark Star-Ledger, October 2003

"From the sacred to the profane, these two collections set high standards for the Naxos/Milken series and the recording industry at large. Not only do both highlight rarely performed repertory, they arrange it coherently and package it with complete texts and knowledgeable annotation. Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, known best as a composer for classical guitar, steps well outside that arena in these beautifully well-crafted choral works. Three Stars.

The world of American Yiddish theater, only faint echoes of which can be heard in Manhattan's Lower East Side, gets a respectful revival in these newly orchestrated selections. Lyrics are printed in English translations only, but with a few well-considered footnotes that help put today's listener in the proper time and place. Three Stars."

Dan Pine
Jewish News Weekly of Northern California

"Most original orchestrations have been lost, but top reconstruction orchestrators like Ira Hearshen and Paul Henning turned in spectacular arrangements throughout...Every track is delicious, thanks in large part to the singers, who come from conservatory, musical theater and cantorial backgrounds. Each is dynamite...The music is glorious, while Yiddish, as sung on this set, shows itself to be a truly expressive and easy-on-the ear language."

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