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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa


Published April 19, 2006

Dancing On The Edge Of The Volcano: Jewish Cabaret—Popular and Political Songs— 1900-1945

Over the last several years, Jewish music (klezmer in particular) has enjoyed an ecumenical resurgence in popularity. The all-American New Budapest Orpheum Society examines popular Jewish music of an entirely different sort. While klezmer and Yiddish folk songs are more plebeian—the music of the shtetl and new immigrants—this is the music of cultured city folk: the Viennese, to be exact. Lyrics offer a glimpse into the golden age of Austrian Jewry pre-WWII: wealthy, privileged and sophisticated.  Songs range in style from traditional folk and jazz to late German romanticism, covering political, romantic and even humorous topics. Featured composers and lyricists include Brecht, Weill, Copland and Schoenberg. Some selections may be familiar to cabaret fans, including the Friedrich Hollander tune (known in English as “Falling In Love Again”) written for Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel. Two volumes include songs in German, English translations, plus a few Hebrew political songs. Included is an 80-page booklet, complete with historical notes and lyrics.