I. La Mal Casada 02:15
II. El Punchon y La Rosa 01:16
III. Los Arvoles Llorosos 06:05
IV. A La Una 01:39
V. La Borracha 02:07

Liner Notes

Although Simon Sargon’s father was a Sephardi Jew, descended directly from Jews who had lived on the Iberian Peninsula prior to the late-15th-century expulsions, his family had resettled in India in the 18th century and lost its contact with Ladino language and culture. Thus, although Sargon had become acquainted in America with a few of the best-known folksongs in Judéo-Espagnol, he was unaware until his personal discovery in 1992 of the vastness and diversity of the composite Ladino musical tradition. That year—the five-hundredth anniversary of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain—while preparing a series of lectures on Sephardi music and researching its vocal literature, he was astonished to learn of the sheer volume of extant Ladino poems, songs, and ballads. “I was bowled over when I discovered the great number of them,” he later wrote,

“their range of mood and subject, and their beauty . . . . As I uncovered one gem of a song after another, I felt that this repertoire deserved to be more widely known. I decided to make settings of some of the melodies that most appealed to me, so as to allow them to be experienced by a wide concert-going public.”

Having titled his earlier cycle of Yiddish folksong arrangements At Grandmother’s Knee, in reference to his mother’s eastern European Ashkenazi heritage, he titled the present Ladino cycle At Grandfather’s Knee. Of the five songs he selected from Alberto Hemsi’s anthology, Cancionero sefardi, four are dancelike in spirit. But the centerpiece is a beautiful lament, to which Sargon has added piano arpeggios that represent the tears of the trees. Throughout the cycle his aim was to exploit some of the prosperities he views as common to the Ladino folk repertoire and Spanish music: free and expressive melismatic lines and often elaborate melodic ornamentation. At Grandfather’s Knee was completed in 1995 and premiered that same month in Houston.

By: Neil W. Levin



Sung in Ladino


My father came from France
my mother from Aragon,
They got married
so I could be born.

They married me to a man—
son of a great lord.
In the middle of the night
he asked me to bring water.

A young man passed by there.
He gave me three pinches.
Two were for love
The other one was conditional.

If my love knew,
I would deserve to be killed.
You don't deserve that, my lady.
Your love is me.


Pierce, pierce, the rose is fragrant.
And love hurts greatly.
You were not born for me
Quickly, go far from here.

If you wish to see me once again,
Go to the door, I will speak with you.
Lift your eyes to the sea
There is where we'll meet.

When you descend the stairs,
Look at the blood running;
It's the blood of the dark-haired girls.
Which is sweeter than honey.


Trees weep for rain
And mountains for air.
Thus do my eyes weep
For you, my beloved.

You are white, and your dress is white.
And your figure is white.
White flowers fall from you
From your beauty.

Rain has fallen and soaked
The street and the courtyard.
Go tell my beloved
It is from my eyes that the water has come.
I repeat and say:
What will become of me.
In foreign lands, I am going to die.


I was born at one o’clock,
At two o’clock I grew up,
At three o’clock I took a lover,
At four o’clock I married.
Soul, life, and heart.

Going off to war
I threw two kisses in the air.
One is for my mother,
The other for you.


I want to buy, my lady,
a pair of wooden clogs.
A twisted leg doesn’t fit into a clog,
If that’s so, my lady,
Let’s just take time to drink!
I want to buy, my lady,
a pair of sandals.
White ankles don’t suit sandals.
A twisted leg doesn’t fit into a clog.

I want to buy, my lady,
A pair of underwear.
The underwear makes welts on me.
I want to buy, my lady, a blouse.
A blouse is tight on me.
If that is so, my lady,
Let’s take time for a drink!

Sung in Ladino


Mi padre era di Francia
mi madre di Aragon
que se cazaron juntos
para que naciera yo.

Me cazaron a un mancebo
hijo de un gran siñor.
A fin de media noche
agua me demandó.

Por alli paso un mancebico,
tres peliscos me dio.
Los dos eran de amores
y el otro de condicion.

Si mi amore lo sabe,
matada merisco yo
No vos matex, mi dama,
que vuestro amor so yo.


Puncha, puncha, la rosa huele
y el amor muncho duele.
Tú no nacites para mí
presto, aléxate de aqui.

Si me queres ver otra vez,
sale a la puerta, te hablaré.
Echa los ojos a la mar,
Allí mos vamos a encontrar.

Abaxando la escalera
vide una sangre muy correra;
es la sangre de las morenas
que es más dulce que la miel.


Arvoles lloran por lluvias
Y montañas por aires
¡Ansí lloran los mis ojos
Por ti, querida 'mante!

Blanca sos, blanca vistes
Blanca la tu figura,
Blancas flores caen de ti,
De la tu hermosura

Lluvia hizo y se mojo       
La calle y el cortijo.
Anda dezilde al mi amor
Que es de los ojos mios.
Torno y digo que va ser de mi
En tierras ajenas yo me vo morir.


A la una nací
A las dos m'engrandecí
A las tres tomí amante
a las cuatro me cazí
Alma vida y coraçón.

Yendome para la querra
Dos bezos al aire di
El uno es para mi madre
Y el otro para ti


Mercar vos quiero, la mi mujer
Un par de shuecos.
Pie tuerto no mete shueco.
Con esto, la mi mujer,
Echemos el tiempo en el beber!
Mercar vos quiero, la mi mujer
Un par de calsas
Pacha blanca no mete calsas.

Mercar vos quiero, la mi mujer,
Un par de bragas.
Las bragas me se hazen llgas.
Mercar vos quiero, la mi mujer una camisa.
La camisa a mi me stringe.
Con esto, la mi mujer,
Echemos el tiempo en el beber.



Composer: Simon Sargon

Length: 13:00
Genre: Chamber

Performers: Ana María Martínez, Soprano;  Kristin Okerlund, Piano

Date Recorded: 12/01/2000
Venue: Hey-U Studios, Vienna, Austria
Engineer: Weir, Simon
Assistant Engineer: Weir, Simon
Project Manager: Paul Schwendener and Neil Levin

Additional Credits:

Publisher: Transcontinental
Source: Hemsi 1995
Translation: Simon A. Sargon


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