78 rpm Recordings of European Jewish Music
Discography of Early European Recordings of Jewish Music
At some stage I intend writing a greatly expanded and updated version description of my Discography of Early European Recordings of Jewish Music. (For an earlier account, please see Early Recordings of Jewish Music in Poland) which is now woefully out of date.) 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. There are also certain major record companies such as the French Pathé company which have proved very resistant to research and whose output, I am sure, I have documented only very partially.
Nevertheless, despite this great increase in crude numbers, the general picture presented earlier remains much the same. Cantorial and Yiddish vocal items are still the main recorded categories in pretty much equal proportions, whereas purely instrumental recordings continue to account for a minute percentage of the overall total.
The discography covers all recordings made in Europe, but specifically excludes Sephardic recordings as these are covered by Joel Bresler's discography. As for what constitutes 'Europe', my policy has been inclusive rather than exclusive. The main problem in defining Europe relates to the Russian Tsarist Empire which covered vast regions which do not by any stretch of the imagination fall within any definition of Europe. Nevertheless, and primarily because the information simply came to light during my research, I have included recordings made in non-European areas of Tsarist Russia such as Dagestan. In Europe proper, recordings were made to a greater or lesser extent in most Western, Central and Eastern European countries. Important centres for such recordings were London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Bucharest, Iaşi [Jassy], Czernowitz, Lemberg (a hugely productive city), Warsaw, Vilna, St Petersburg, Moscow and Odessa. The Nordic countries appear to have produced almost nothing, Spain absolutely nothing and Italy only a handful of recordings as did Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. The real surprise (and mystery) in all this is that, despite my best efforts, in 14 years of diligent research I have been able to unearth evidence of only 4 recordings made in the region occupied by the former Czechoslovakia. I simply cannot begin to imagine why there was so little recording activity in this area.
Some years ago I decided to expand the discography by giving it the added dimension of a so-called Union Catalogue. This means that it now lists the location(s) anywhere in the world where a copy of a record can be found. An immense amount of work remains to be done on this aspect of the discography, but the results so far are very encouraging. I have managed to track down copies of several thousand of the recordings listed and I have every confidence that many thousands more are yet to come to light in libraries and archives that are still to be explored. In particular we can be sure that very large numbers of these recordings are held by private collectors. If any such collectors read this article, I would plead with them to contact me. Their potential contribution to this enterprise is immense.
Joel Bresler, www.sephardicmusic.org (launched 2008)
Rainer E. Lotz, Axel Weggen, Deutsche National-Discographie: Serie 6: Discographie der Judaica-Aufnahmen, Band 1 (Birgit Lotz Verlag, Bonn, 2006)
Richard Keith Spottswood, Ethnic Music on Records: A Discography of Ethnic Recordings Produced in the United States, 1893 to 1942 (University of Illinois Press, 1990)
Jeffrey Wollock, European Recordings of Jewish Instrumental Folk Music, 1911 - 1914, (ARSC Journal XXVIII, no. 1 B 1997, pp. 36-55)
Jeffrey Wollock, Soviet Recordings of Jewish Instrumental Folk Music, 1937-1938, (ARSC Journal XXIV, no. 1 B Spring 2003, pp. 14-32)
78 rpm Labels
These articles will include a brief history of each label, wherever known, as well as label-specific discographies. This introductory site includes a sample discography, for Elesdisc.
Posted 22 December 2008.
Copyright 2008, Michael Aylward