Toccata Classics 0294 (2015)


Lev Mordukhov Tseitlin (1884, Pinsk – July 8, 1930, New York City), billed as Leo Zeitlin, was a Russian composer. In 1923, he emigrated to the United States. His best-known work is Eli Zion, a paraphrase for piano and cello "on a folk theme and trope of 'Song of Songs'".

Zeitlin was a violinist, violist, conductor and impresario who was active in Saint Petersburg's Society for Jewish Folk Music and who studied with Rimsky-Korsakoff and Glazunov. In 1923, shortly after he arrived in New York City with his wife Esther from Danzig, he became the violinist and arranger for the Capitol Theatre.

In 1925, he began arranging orchestral and small ensemble pieces for the Capitol's radio program on WEAF, which in 1926 became the flagship station of the NBC Red Network. Beginning in 1926, the series of light classical concerts titled Capitol Theatre was broadcast by the NBC Red Network on Sunday evenings. This series continued until 1929, not long before Zeitlin's death.
In an article written by Pro Musica Hebraica, Zeitlin is described as "one of the most important Russian Jewish composers to resurface, after decades of neglect, as a leading figure in the history of twentieth-century Jewish art music."

This CD release of Zeitlin’s music is a major contribution to classical music and Jewish music in particular.  The recent discovery of a trunk full of scores brought his music back to light. The story of how the music was found makes fascinating reading in the booklet. This album attempts to remedy decades of neglect, especially for the charismatic Yiddish song settings for voice, strings and piano. Zeitlin’s powerful declamations – Romantic piano music underscoring spoken Yiddish and Russian poetry – points to a genre that was once popular and is now forgotten.
The second part of the Cd is devoted to Joachim Stutschewsky (1891-1982) including his six Yiddish songs for voice, piano and strings. Toccata is planning a future release to Stutschewsky’s chamber music.

The Cd’s are very reasonably priced and include well-written notes. Strongly recommended.

Rudi van den Bulck, December 2015