[Mendele] Mendele Personal Notices and Announcements--Mayrent Institute Now Home to Oldest Surviving Recordings of Yiddish Music

Victor Bers victor.bers at yale.edu
Thu Jul 9 21:02:30 EDT 2015

Mendele Personal Notices and Announcements

July 9, 2015

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From: Scott A. Carter <Scott.carter at wisc.edu>
Date: July 9, 2015


MADISON - The Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture has acquired the twelve
earliest known cylinder recordings of Yiddish music, released c.1901 by the
one-time Chicago-based Thomas Lambert Company. The recordings enhance the
Institute's offerings in combination with the Mayrent Collection of Yiddish
Recordings, a repository of over 9,000 78rpm recordings of Yiddish and
Jewish music, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Mills Music Library.

These rarest of earliest American recordings trace Yiddish theater's
journey from its European provenance to its reinvention as a major American
venue. "Rozhinkes mit Mandlen" ("Raisins and Almonds"), the evergreen
lullaby composed in 1880s Romania by the father of the Yiddish theater,
Abraham Goldfaden, and recorded six years before his death in the New
World, echoes continuity, while others of the two-minute recordings clue us
in to the diversity of the Yiddish stage's pioneer participants.

The remarkable sound quality of the recordings is due to the transfer
skills of the historian/sound engineer/collector David Giovannoni
(UW-Madison, 1980), who made the collection available. It is also thanks to
the pristine condition of their original celluloid surface, and to its

In 1900, Thomas Lambert began recording on celluloid, an early form of
plastic that produced superior sound and resiliency. Unlike Thomas Edison's
1877 invention - metal followed by wax cylinders that could be played only
a handful of times before wearing out - Lambert's cylinders were labeled
"Indestructible." He, unfortunately, was not; frivolous patent infringement
lawsuits initiated by Edison drove Lambert out of business by 1906.

In the end the Thomas Lambert Company's 1008-song catalog came to reflect
mainstream popular music. Yet half its first releases - some forty in all -
were Yiddish. The extant dozen has found its rightful home. The Institute
is cooperating with Grammy Award-winning Archeophone Records, which will
reissue the recordings later this year under the title Attractive Hebrews:
The Thomas Lambert Yiddish Cylinders 1901-1904.

Archeophone Records principal Richard Martin says, "We are profoundly
grateful to the Mayrent Institute for inviting us to publish these precious
recordings. Their leadership in preserving Yiddish heritage pairs
brilliantly with our skill in the reissue market of ancient audio. The
result will be a top-flight production that looks and sounds great and puts
the recordings in their proper context."

CONTACT: Henry Sapoznik, sapoznik at wisc.edu, 608-890-4818; Scott Carter,
sacarter2 at wisc.edu, 608-890-4818

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