New Budapest Orpheum Society,
Jewish Cabaret in Exile
(Cedille, 2009)

The title of this CD refers to the economically based movement of Jews from the country to cities such as Vienna, Budapest and Berlin in the late 19th century. These 25 songs are both in German and Yiddish (as you might guess, the CD is nearly 80 minutes long). They represent many composers and styles. The CD booklet has the lyrics printed both in their original languages and in English.

German cabaret has an image of being decadent, like in the musical Cabaret, but there is nothing like that here besides a few double entendres. The music sounds part operatic and part music hall. The singers are accompanied by a violinist and pianist, and less prominently, a bassist and percussionist.

The themes vary from sentimental to overtly political, of loss, regret and poverty. One surprise is a song about poisoning pigeons in the park, a theme that seems to have been appropriated instead of invented by Tom Lehrer.

The CD comes with an excellent 62-page booklet, which explains the history of this music. It is a unique, sounding like vaudeville played by classically trained musicians, sung in German and Yiddish, with the minor keys of Jewish music sneaking in here and there. It's a fascinating presentation.

review by
Dave Howell

5 December 2009

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