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Remembrance of Things Past: Klezmer Musicians of Galicia, 1870–1940

from IN PRE-WAR POLAND

Walter Zev Feldman
Affiliation:
researches Ottoman Turkish and Jewish music, as well as the literature of the Ottoman and central Asian Turks.
Michael C. Steinlauf
Affiliation:
Gratz College Pennsylvania
Antony Polonsky
Affiliation:
Brandeis University, Massachusetts
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Summary

INTRODUCTION

UNTIL the present time knowledge about the east European Jewish professional instrumentalist the klezmer and his music has related almost exclusively to eastern Ukraine. This is primarily because of accidents of research, commercial recording, and emigration. Material from the travels of S. An-ski and Joel Engel in Podolia and Volhynia in 1912–14, the commercial recordings of the Belf's Romanian Orchestra in 1911–14, the fieldwork of Moyshe Beregovski in the 1930s, much of the material published by Joachim Stutchewsky (1891–1982), the early American commercial recordings of Lieutenant Joseph Frankel (1885–1953), and the somewhat later recordings of the master clarinettists Shloimke Beckerman (1883–1974) and Dave Tarras (1897–1989), all contribute to our knowledge of the repertoire, style, and social history of klezmorim of eastern Ukraine, which was part of the Russian empire throughout the nineteenth century. Klezmer materials from the non-Ukrainian and non-tsarist territories of eastern Europe are far rarer. Although a few klezmer documents survive from eastern Galicia (ruled by Austria between 1772 and 1918), no attempt has hitherto been made to synthesize this material and assess its similarities to and differences from the better-known east Ukrainian klezmer patterns.

Yet some of the very earliest references to Jewish musicians—as distinct from the professionally undifferentiated medieval Jewish entertainers known as letsonim— concern the region between Kraków and Lemberg (Lwów, Lviv, Lemberik): Małopolska and Galicia. The earliest known use of klezmer as a term for a musician (rather than kley zemer for the musical instrument) occurs in a Jewish community document from Kraków dating from 1595. An agreement between the Jewish musicians’ guild and the corresponding Christian guild dating from 1629 was published by Majer Bałaban in 1906. From this document we learn, first of all, of the existence of a Jewish musicians’ guild—an institution that apparently had not existed in Germany or earlier in Poland. We also learn that most of the musicians worked part-time as craftsmen (such as hatters and gold-braid makers—both quite respectable professions), and that the Jewish guild musicians performed on violin, cimbalom, lute, double bass, and drum. Except for the lute, which disappears from Jewish music entirely after the seventeenth century, the remaining instruments formed the basis of the klezmer ensemble through much of eastern Europe, and survived in this southern Polish region until after the First World War.

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Publisher: Liverpool University Press
Print publication year: 2003

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