Yaffa Yarkoni Sings Yiddish - Rumania, Rumania
In a career spanning over fifty years, Yaffa Yarkoni has sung for the troops fighting Israel's War of Independence and to sell-out audiences at such international venues as New York's Carnegie Hall, London's Palladium and the Paris Olympia and in languages as diverse as Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese and more. At the height of her career probably Israel's most popular singer, Ms. Yarkoni still performed at the time of release of this album. Yaffa Yarkoni Sings Yiddish - Rumania, Rumania makes Ms. Yarkoni's Yiddish recordings available on CD for the very first time, thanks to the vision, dedication and enterprise of Simon Rutberg and his Hatikvah Music label for which this was also its first release, in 2000. Such vision and effort as Mr. Rutberg's to preserve and perpetuate such historic material deserves every recognition, and especially so when one stops to consider that this is more a labour of love than anything else - a profitable business proposition it is most unlikely to ever be.
Yaffa Yarkoni Sings Yiddish - Rumania, Rumania takes traditional Yiddish songs and places them firmly into a contemporary idiom - contemporary, that is, in the context of the period of these arrangements, the early part of the second half of the twentieth century. Lush strings, rich plaintive oboes and cor anglaises, punctuating harp arpeggios, acoustic rhythm guitar, the occasional big band-style brass section. If all that is suggestive of shmaltz, fear not. It's one thing that this album manages to steer well clear of. The generally rich, superb and tasteful arrangements are by none other than Glenn Osser, whose credits also include work with artists such as 1970s popular singing legend Johnny Mathis. Osser also conducts here, but unfortunately the credits on Yaffa Yarkoni Sings Yiddish - Rumania, Rumania pretty much end here and we do not discover the orchestra or any individual accompanying artists.
The opener, Papirossen, provides a remarkably straightforward interpretation of this classic by Yablokoff, apart from the lush, tasteful orchestration. Ich Hob Dich Tzufil Lieb likewise remains completely recognisable. It is not only difficult but moreover quite unfair to have to judge Shein Vi Di Levone here when what is perhaps the "definitive" modern version of this song, if indeed there ever can be such a thing, by Maxwell Street Klezmer Band on their 1996 album You Should Be So Lucky, is so fresh and strong in the memory. Ben-Chaim's Heveinu Sholem Aleichem gets a lively but fairly conventional treatment. Unter Boimer is beautifully restrained in both Ms. Yarkoni's exquisite vocal and mostly even the orchestral arrangement. Another classic, My Yiddishe Mamme, gets one of the then rarer, more subtle treatments that is simply and quite stunningly beautiful, especially in Yaffa Yarkoni's well-judged, understated vocal. Things get foot-tappingly animated with David Melech Israel, and continue in a similar vein with the lively Einz Einz. More sedate again, Momele is also a fairly straight interpretation but with lush orchestration in parts. Avremele, a Mordekhay Gebirtig song, is a somewhat unusual interpretation perhaps with its lilting, up-beat rhythm guitar contrasting with the slow violin and harp-driven sections, but it works superbly well. A touch of swing lifts Zug Far Vus? in a style recalling the great "Sweet Bands". The closer, the irrepressible Rumania, Rumania by New York Yiddish theatre legend Aaron Lebedeff opens with a dramatic trumpet and sees Ms. Yarkoni at her most animated.
Quite apart from their historic significance, Yaffa Yarkoni's interpretations of Yiddish songs stand up well enough in their own right even today. They are bound to delight and, thanks to this timely re-issue on CD, may yet be discovered and enjoyed by another generation. Yaffa Yarkoni Sings Yiddish - Rumania, Rumania surely should have a place in any serious Yiddish song collection.
© 2004 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.