The Quartet Week Podcast with Anthea Kreston: The Jerusalem Quartet on the Legacy of Yiddish Music
For the last couple of years, the Jerusalem Quartet has been exploring the rich world of Yiddish cabaret music from the interwar period—music with a biting and deeply ironic sense of humor that became a major source of inspiration for artists during the Weimar Republic, especially in Berlin’s thriving cabaret scene, in popular and film music, and even for the musical avant-garde of the day: “It’s the first time,” says Ori Kam, the Jerusalem Quartet’s violist, “one can see sarcasm in German culture, word games, a way of playing with language you don’t see in Weber operas or in Lehár operettas, but that you do see in Berg’s Lulu or in Wozzeck.” For him, this music shows a distinctly Jewish worldview: dry and realistic, but at the same time brave and courageous. The terror of the Holocaust made this rich culture disappear, its profound and ongoing influence remains mostly hidden to this day—probably only very few people know, for example, that Secret Marriage, one of Sting’s successful songs, was actually written by Hanns Eisler. The Jerusalem Quartet has dedicated itself to shedding some light on this blind spot: in addition to works by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Erwin Schulhoff, the four musicians and soprano Hila Baggio presented Yiddish cabaret songs at the Pierre Boulez Saal on June 8, reconstructed from archival material and transcribed for voice and string quartet by composer Leonid Desyatnikov.
For more on the Jerusalem Quartet’s own history as an ensemble and on the heritage of Yiddish music, tune in to the second episode of our Quartet Week Podcast series, featuring Anthea Kreston in conversation with members of the Jerusalem Quartet.
Five Pieces for String Quartet
Yiddish / 5 Songs for Voice and String Quartet
Erich Wolfgang Korngold
String Quartet No. 2 in E-flat Major op. 26
Together with soprano Hila Baggio, the Jerusalem Quartet examines the diverse influences of Jewish composers and Jewish musical traditions on 20th-century European music. Late and post-Romantic works by Erwin Schulhoff and Erich Wolfgang Korngold are juxtaposed with quartet arrangements of Yiddish cabaret songs from the interwar period.
At the end of the season, the Quartet Week casts a spotlight on what many consider to be the quintessential chamber music format. Between June 7 and 16, eleven extraordinary international ensembles will explore both the historical development and the vast emotional scope of the string quartet genre in the intimate space of the Pierre Boulez Saal.