The "Yiddish Winterreise" concept of this album is a bit difficult to grasp. It's not really modeled on Franz Schubert's song cycle, except that in a general sense it is. The album includes one song from that cycle, Der Lindenbaum, in Yiddish translation, and the concert presentation of Yiddish song in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust was heavily influenced by German art song, Schubert in particular. What you hear on the album is a collection of Yiddish songs, some of them traditional and some with known text authors, but, as bass-baritone Mark Glanville points out, the histories of these pieces remain uncertain, and songs thought to be traditional have turned out to be of relatively recent vintage. They might be thought to represent "a Holocaust survivor's inner journey," as is stated, or perhaps his or her memories: some represent grief over the unthinkable violence that was the history of Jewish life in the last century, but some have Jewish liturgical or other religious significance, and a few are humorous. Taken as a cycle, then, they evoke -- quite powerfully in the understated readings of Glanville and pianist Alexander Knapp -- a sense of profound loss over something that has vanished, which turns out to be very close to Schubert after all. What makes this album appealing, if it is permitted to use the word in this context, is Glanville's obvious determination to fuse the aspects of his background into a unique artistic whole. The booklet is short on explication of the music and the text authors, some of whom were major figures of Yiddish literature, but Glanville's essay on how he came to record this music ought to be required reading for singers.
A Yiddish Winterreise Review
by James Manheim