78 rpm Recordings of European Jewish Music

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Introduction

This site exists for several reasons:

Discography of Early European Recordings of Jewish Music

The site will provide regularly updated information about the Discography of Early European Recordings of Jewish Music that I have been working on since 1994. In addition to an overall work-in-progress account, I shall also be writing a series of articles on various European cities as centres for the recording of Jewish music. To start with the site offers a reproduction of my article "Early Recordings of Jewish Music in Poland" that appeared in volume sixteen of Polin in 2003 together with an accompanying article that provides a very brief update on my discography and summarises the present state of research into historical recordings of Jewish music worldwide.

The aim of the project is to document as far as possible all commercial recordings of Jewish music made in Europe on cylinders or shellac records (broadly speaking, 78 rpm records.) I have now documented in the region of 14,000 recordings spread across 113 different record companies. Furthermore, there is every indication that in coming years many thousands more will be added. When complete, this discography will list them all, together with all standard discographical details such as record label, catalogue number, matrix number, disc size, artist name and title of recording (together with details of composers and arranger where these are given), precise recording date and recording location, name of recording engineer, and details of any records on which the original recording was later reissued. Every effort will also be made to provide artist biographies and additional information of interest.

The range of musical genres covered by the discography is wide, but may be broadly defined as applying to traditional Jewish music. For example, it excludes works by Jewish composers working in the European classical tradition; art music, even if specifically Jewish in tone and content; and non-Jewish music performed by Jewish artists. It does, however, extend to non-musical recordings such as comic monologues and dramatic recitals. In addition, there are separate appendices dealing with categories such as Jewish music performed by non-Jewish artists and Jewish parodies performed by non-Jewish artists, the latter a fairly common genre among pre-revolutionary Russian recordings.

(Click here for more information.)

Sample Discography - Elesdisc

By way of a practical illustration of how a discography is constructed I have also decided to release in its entirety my discography of one of the smaller record labels I have documented together with a short profile of the company. This is the French Elesdisc label that was active for several decades after the end of the Second World War. I should emphasise that the discography as it appears on this website is very much a slightly tidied up working file and that it may bear little resemblance to the final product, at least as regards outward appearance. I apologise for the grievous lack of biographical information about Léon Speiser, the founder of the label, and most of the artists who recorded for it. I hope that in time this defect will be remedied and that this website will prove useful in unearthing sources for such information (and not just for this record label).

(Click here for more information.)

Jewish Radio Broadcasts in Pre-War Europe

This project is a spin-off from my discographical research. On this website you will find the initial results of my so far very casual research into this fascinating topic. As and when more information comes my way, the schedule of broadcasts will be updated. This is a topic I intend to pursue with some vigour in coming years.

(Click here for more information.)

Source Material for Jewish Music, Yiddish and Yiddish Theatre

The site will also provide a home for the large body of non-discographical material that has come my way in the course of my research and which I think it worthwhile making available to the general public. Much of this relates to various aspects of Jewish music and to Yiddish, especially the Yiddish theatre. Most of this will take the form of the source material in the original language and my translation of it. Many of the articles are texts that are often referred to or quoted from in books on Jewish music but which hitherto have never been published in full.

All the material listed below now stands in various stages of completion and will be added to the website in due course of time and not necessarily in the order set out.

Translations

About This Site

This site is a personal project of Michael Aylward, a freelance translator specialising in insurance.  For more about the author, see here.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Joel Bresler for appointing himself my webmaster and helping me launch this site. Over the years I have been helped by countless hundreds of individuals. While there are simply too many to list, special thanks go to those listed here.

Dedication

This site is dedicated to my long-suffering mother and late father. I also wish to dedicate the site to two outstanding personalities - the English discographer Alan Kelly and Leonard Prager, doyen of Yiddish studies. Both men are supreme examples of the enormous difference a single individual can make to the world. Please see here for more.

Appendices

What is a Discography?
     Jewish Discographical Research - A Global Overview
Early Recordings of Jewish Music in Poland (reprinted from Polin)
Reissues of Jewish Music on 78s
Original Articles (forthcoming)

  • Cantor Sawel Kwartin's first gramophone recordings in Vienna 1907
  • Vilna as a centre for recordings of Jewish music
  • Warsaw as a centre for recordings of Jewish music
  • Lemberg as a centre for recordings of Jewish music
  • Berlin as a centre for recordings of Jewish music
  • Vienna as a centre for recordings of Jewish music
  • Budapest as a centre for recordings of Jewish music
  • Bucharest as a centre for recordings of Jewish music
  • St Petersburg as a centre for recordings of Jewish music
  • Odessa as a centre for recordings of Jewish music
  • Russian Jewish kupletisty on gramophone records

Bibliography (partial)

Picture credit:

http://www.jewishgen.org/Ukraine/Volhynia/emilchino/Emilchino.htm
The Kopelberg family in the mid-1930s in the Odessa region.

Posted 22 December 2008.

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