|Der alter tsigayner
It is not altogether clear whether Der alter tzigayner was part of a theatrical production or whether it was one of Ellstein’s independent songs. One latter-day (1970s) but not always reliable source attributed it to Ellstein’s 1938 operetta Bublitshki (Little Bagels), starring Molly Picon and Aaron Lebedeff. The script or stage version of the play, however, has not been found, and the synopsis contained in the program booklet makes no mention of any of the show’s songs—as is frequently the case. As an operetta, the play obviously centered around songs, although this one was not copyrighted until its folio publication five years after the production. On the other hand, a newspaper review of the show refers to “an old fiddler” as a “high point of the evening’s entertainment.” Further complicating the uncertainty is the possibility of multiple but unrelated shows with the same title. In any case, Der alter tzigayner certainly stands on its own as a song, celebrating the typically romanticized perception of Gypsy violinists.
By: Neil W. Levin
Lyrics by Jacob Jacobs
Yonder, on a hill, under the free, open skies—
far from the noise of the city’s tumult,
stands a little hut all by itself.
An old Gypsy lives in it.
Yonder sounds such sweet tones,
that sob in minor,
when the old Gypsy takes up his fiddle,
with all his fire and ardor,
as only a Gypsy can.
A Gypsy melody is so beautiful.
Once you hear it, you never forget it,
for it is warm, heartfelt, full of charm.
A strange power, it fills you with love as well as with suffering.
You hear it but once
and it gives you no rest.
The melody enchants you.
When you first hear it,
it sounds simply naïve,
and you have no idea of
how deeply it moves the soul.
From every side it infuses you
with passion and joy.
You want to hold on forever to these—
to these sounds of the melody.
When the Gypsy plays his fiddle,
it burns the heart.
The sound of his fiddle
awakens your soul’s desire.
Your passions are aroused
when his bow strikes the fiddle’s strings.
It’s like floating to heaven,
all you want is life,
And life becomes so sweet….
That is the old Gypsy’s song.
Lyrics by Jacob Jacobs
dort af a bergele unter dem frayen himl,
vayt fun dem rashikn shtots geriml,
shteyt zikh a khatkele aleyn af an ort.
an alter tsigayner voynt dort.
dort hern zikh tener zeyer zise,
vos veynen in minor,
ven af zayn fidl fargeyt zikh
der alter tsigayner,
mit zayn gantsn fayer un ben,
nor vi a tsigayner ken.
a tsigayner melodie iz azoy sheyn.
hert ir es, fargest ir es nit, neyn,
vayl zi iz varem, hartsik, ful mit kheyn,
a modne kraft.
zi git aykh libe un oykh laydnshaft.
hert ir es nor eyn mol, git es keyn ru.
s’farkisheft aykh di melodie.
ven ir hert es, dakht zikh aykh,
s’iz prost naiv,
un ir hot dan gornit keyn bagrif,
vi es rirt on di neshome tif.
fun yeder zay zi filt aykh on
mit lust un freylekhkayt.
onhaltn vilt ir eybik ot a di
di klangen fun di melodie.
ven der tsigayner shpilt zikh zayn lidl,
in harts git a bri.
fun zayn fidl der klang
dervekt dayn neshomes falang.
dayn blut es kokht un es tsit,
zayn fidl dem boygn er tsit.
nemt in di himlen shvebn,
es glust zikh nor tsum lebn
dos lebn vert dan azoy gut…
dos iz dem altn tsigayners lid.
Composer: Abraham Ellstein
Genre: Yiddish Theater
Elli Jaffe, Conductor;
Simon Spiro, Tenor;
Vienna Chamber Orchestra
Date Recorded: 10/01/2001
Venue: Baumgartner Casino (A), Vienna, Austria
Engineer: Hughes, Campbell
Assistant Engineer: Hamza, Andreas
Assistant Engineer: Weir, Simon
Project Manager: Schwendener, Paul
Publisher: Music Sales Corp.
Arrangers: Frank Bennett/Zalmen Mlotek
Orchestrator: Frank Bennett
Yiddish Translations/Transliterations: Eliyahu Mishulovin & Adam J. Levitin
Arrangement © Milken Family Foundation