Leo Zeitlin

Five Songs from the Yiddish (ca. 1913-1921)

1. Eyli, eyli (My God, My God)
2. Iber di hoyfn (Over the Fields)
3. Patsh, patsh kikhelekh (Pattycake, Pattycake)
4. Shoyn nito der nekhtn (Last Night is Over)
5. Der kadish fun reb Leyvi-Yitskhok (The Kaddish Prayer of Rabbi Levi-Isaac

Leo Zeitlin (Tseytlin) (1884-1930) is one of the most important Russian Jewish composers to resurface, after decades of neglect, as a leading figure in the history of twentieth-century Jewish art music. Born in Pinsk (present-day Belarus), he studied first in Odessa and then at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he became actively involved in Jewish musical circles. After the Revolution in 1917, he worked in several cities across Eastern Europe before immigrating to the United States, where he was involved in performing and arranging for a New York “picture palace” (an enormous movie theater) and early radio broadcasts, while continuing to compose his own music.

In the late 1980s, musicologist Paula Eisenstein Baker began to research Zeitlin’s forgotten musical oeuvre. With her assistance, Zeitlin’s masterpiece “Eli Zion” was performed by Itzhak Perlman at Pro Musica Hebraica’s inaugural concert in April 2008 with the composer’s daughter Ruth Zeitlin Roes in attendance. We are now pleased to present more treasures from Zeitlin’s repertoire, a suite of five compositions for baritone, mezzo-soprano, string quartet, and piano. These pieces are Zeitlin’s settings of Yiddish-language religious and children songs, some of which were discovered during the ethnographic expeditions to the Pale of Settlement by his colleagues in the St. Petersburg Society for Jewish Folk Music. All Zeitlin’s known chamber works have recently been published by A-R Editions edited by Eisenstein Baker and Robert Nelson.