[Yiddish Sheet Music] Thomashefsky, Boris. (1866–1939) & Perlmutter, Arnold. (1859–1953) & Wohl, Herman. (1877–1936) & Rumshinsky, Joseph. (1881–1956)

Collection of Yiddish Sheet Music

Collection of 4 Yiddish sheet music and song books dating from 1910-1917, all issued by The Hebrew Publishing Co., New York City, mostly for operettas of the Yiddish Theatre in New York's Lower East Side. Each with lyrics written by Ukrainian-born lyricist and impresario Boris Thomashefsky, a founder and pioneer of the American Yiddish Theater. As a singer and performer, Thomashefsky emerged as one of the biggest stars of Yiddish theater, while Joseph Rumshinsky was one of its great composers. Herman Wohl and Arnold Perlmutter were a successful team of composers, the latter being in charge of orchestration in their collaborations.

All editions have the text underlay romanized, but unsystematically so (the YIVO system did not exist at the time). Even within each edition, romanization of words and titles is inconsistent. The editions seem intended for English speakers but retain typically German spelling features suggesting that the Stichvorlagen originally used a German-based romanization. The texts in Hebrew lettering are printed separately. For each song, the singer of the original production is indicated.

1) 1910 songbook for the operetta Der Poilisher [sic] Yid ("The Polish Jew") written by Thomashefsky with music by Perlmutter & Wohl. Unbound. 20 pp. Attractive bilingual cover with photographs of Thomashefsky and Wohl as vignettes. Texts in Hebrew lettering to pp. 2 and 19–20. The pagination is continuous, but the two pages of the song "Chad Gadyo" are reversed; p. 6 should precede p. 5. 12.5 x 9 inches (31.4 x 24.2 cm). Browned; outer corners slightly bumped; outer leaf slightly frayed at spine.

2) 1910 sheet music: "Emune Is Theier", from the operetta Der Polischer [sic] Yid. Unbound. 6 pp. "Sung by Mr. B. Thomashefsky and Madam Rosa Karp". Attractive cover art depicting domestic music making in a Jewish household, with photos of Thomashefsky and Wohl as vignettes. In this edition, the romanization is straightforward in German style. The text in Hebrew lettering is printed to the gutter of the outer sheet. Approx. 13.5 x 10.75 inches (34.5 x 27 cm). Front and back covers bled through.

3) 1917 Songbook ("Music Album") for the operetta Dos Zubrochene Fidele ("The Broken Violin"). "In Thomashefsky's National Theatre", words by Boris Thomashefsky, music by J.M. Rumshisky [sic, the consistent misspelling of his name is puzzling]. Unbound. 44 pp. Bilingual cover with photos of Thomashefsky and Rumshi[n]sky as vignettes. 12 x 9.5 inches (31 x 23.8 cm). Ink stains (from printing?), especially to foot of p. 14. Penultimate leaf squeezed by printer. Each number has its own copyright note, with some dated "1916" (pp. 3, 10, 13, 38). Only for one song, "A Grus Fun Der Heim," the text is also printed in Hebrew lettering (to the back cover). The final song, "Ich Bin An Actor," has the first strophe as text underlay in romanization, but the remaining four strophes are printed as residual text in Hebrew lettering.

4) 1917 Songbook ("Music Album") for the play Jewish War Brides (the Yiddish title is not given in romanization; in the romanization adopted here, it would probably be the same as the title of the first song, Milchume Kalles), "in Thomashefsky's National Theatre," words by Boris Thomashefsky, music by [J.] M. Rumshi[n]sky. Unbound. 12 pp. Bilingual cover with photos of Thomashefsky, Rumshi[n]sky and three more male persons as vignettes. 13.5 x 10.5 inches (34.2 x 26.5 cm). Creases to front cover.

From approximately 1870 onwards, Jews were emigrating to America in large numbers so that by 1900, nearly half a million European Jews had settled in North America, many in New York's Lower East Side. It was there that the Yiddish theater emerged and "by 1910 there were thirteen theaters in the Lower East Side, most of them vaudeville houses." (Sapoznik, "Klezmer," p. 44). (21484)

Printed Music
Culture, Ethnicity & Gender