Marilyn Lerner

Lerner & Wall: Still Soft Voiced Heart (New Yiddish Lieder)

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This album consists of 15 neo-romantic treatments of modern Yiddish poems. The texts were all written during the 20th century, except for "Rusishe Sher," which is a new arrangement of a traditional tune. Yiddish was once the lingua franca of Eastern European (Ashkenazic) Jewry, but was nearly wiped out during the Holocaust. It is now enjoying a resurgence, as younger Jews are discovering that their cultural and religious identities can often be found within the guttural, song-like cadences of the ancestral tongue. New York Jews are especially devoted to reclaiming their heritage. During the 1920s, there were several Yiddish newspapers, as well as a burgeoning theater scene, but very few Jews had much interest in restoring these crucial folkways until recently. However, even if the present works are a tributary of the older sources, any listener who is expecting a cozy, home-like experience is in for a surprise. These are not folk tunes but refined art pieces, performed by well-trained, professional musicians. David Wall, an angelic-voiced tenor who composed the vast majority of the pieces, sounds as though he would be equally at home on the classical recital circuit or on a Broadway stage. He is accompanied throughout by Marilyn Lerner, whose sensitive, supportive piano stylings allow his vocals to soar. Although this set could be best described as a classical song cycle, world music fans might also be attracted to these passionate outpourings from a rebounding language and culture. This album is a poignant reminder of times gone by but also offers renewed hope for the future.

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