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[Note: This article was posted the jewish-music mailing list by Michael Spudic on 4 Feb 2002. It is html-ized and made available here by permission. ari]

Beyond Recall: Once more revisited...
review by Michael Spudic

CD set coverBeyond Recall
... A record of Jewish musical life in Nazi Berlin, 1933 - 1938

11-CD/1 DVD Boxed set (LP-Size) with 516-page-hardcover-book
Release Date: November 12, 2001
BCD 16030 LM - EUR 245.42
ISBN NUMMER: 3-89795-825-2
EAN-Code: 4000127160300 Bear Family Records,

A little over a month ago, there was some talk about the 11 CD set "Beyond Recall --A Record of Jewish musical life in Nazi Berlin 1933-1938." Well imagine my surprise on Thursday morning to have the postman ring with just such a package! A couple of friends in Europe had ordered this collection from Bear Family Records in Berlin and had it shipped to me! An extraordinary birthday present if there ever was one!

There is also a DVD enclosed, a silent film shot in Jerusalem in the winter of 1934-35 with the violinist Andreas Weissgruber. Back in December, there was question on the list regarding the "playability" of the DVD. It is a standard video DVD that can be viewed on any television screen connected to a DVD player.

I will not venture to even begin to evalutate this collection and the most amazingly detailed and comprehensive 500 page plus hardcover that accompanies the set. Perhaps a few impressions will suffice for now.

Detail after detail about the performers, the circumstances of the performances, pictorial renderings of concert programs, performers, copies of musical notation, and original record label copy all abound. There are informative essays that pivot the collection, most poignant being one from Rabbi Andreas Nachama (dated July, 2001, Riverdale, N.Y.) which has very personal insight into the meaning of such a special restorative project as this one.

Thus far, I have only listened to one CD, and that was this afternoon with a retired cantor living together with his wife in Flushing, New York, both survivors of the shoah. We decided to listen to CD-7 and for over an hour, with the CD player on the kitchen table, we heard among other musical treats Yiddish songs, sung by Marion Koegel ("A jiddische Mamme," 'L'koved dem heiligen Shabbos"); the "Juedischer Madrigal-Chor" singing three German folksongs, followed by; Sid Kay's Fellows, swinging things with a couple of Yiddish potpourri types with favorites like "Oifn Pripetschik," "Amol is geven a Mayse," and "Wen der Rebbe lakht."

Of course together with the pleasure of listening to the music for its own sake, one just cannot forget that running concurrently in the background in "real time" is the extraordinary suffering existing outside the recording studios and concert halls of Berlin. Again, I refer Rabbi Nachama's essay "Madly Beautiful," for further insight regarding this, but of course each member of the list would have his or her own sensitivities regarding this project.

I can only conclude by saying that with this monument of a book, and over 14 hours of music--together with an added DVD--one can spend a tremendous amount of time focusing on any one aspect of all the types of music making, and marvel that such a world has been brought back to life.... as it were. I am haunted by the cantor's wife's last words before leaving their apartment early this evening. Kurt recognized so many of the names of the people involved among the musicians and among them, expressed his glee that a Michael Taube, first conductor of the Jewish Kulturbund Orchestra left Germany immediately after Hitler came to power and Kurt had the pleasure of working with Taube in Israel. Kurt's wife Isabelle then mentioned, barely audible, "how terrible for all those that didn't leave in time."

For the next several months, we agreed that we would sit together on Sunday afternoons and listen to more musical testimony in the spirit of "hemshekh" with those voices.

Michael Spudic
Forest Hills, NY

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