Biographies

Label image for Columbia E4031: Minnie Birnbaum, "Schenkt a nedoweh"

Birnbaum started her career early, working in Jakob-Ber Gimpel’s troupe as a child in Lemberg. She later worked alongside Kalman Juvelier in Czernowitz before settling in Berlin. She immigrated to the U.S. in June 1901 at the behest of Boris Thomashefsky and Jacob Adler, where she quickly found roles in vaudeville. She married the actor Louis Birnbaum around 1912, with whom she worked for years as a husband and wife team.

Photograph of Dave Franklin. Franklin, Dave, and Dave Franklin. Shenkt a Nedove!. Theodore Lohr, New York, New York, 1906. Notated Music. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200185839/>.

Dave Franklin is one of the many remarkable but elusive figures to grace the Yiddish stage in the early twentieth century. Though billed as “the king of the comic singers,” he would likely rest in eternal anonymity if not for four surviving recordings released by the Lambert Company of Chicago sometime between 1901 and 1905. These extant recordings reveal a performer brimming with talent and impeccable comedic timing, and yet he appears to have escaped the notice of contemporary and future biographers.

 

Photograph of Clara Gold, from Zalmen Zylbercweig, ed., Leksikon fun Yidishn teater, Vol. 1: 264.

Clara Gold was born in NY in 1888 but grew up in her family’s hometown of Lemberg (now Lviv), Ukraine. She returned to the U.S. around 1900 and began her acting career working in the chorus at the Windsor Theater. By 1916 she had formed a comedy duo with Gustave “Gus” Goldstein, with whom she would perform for the next decade.

Photograph of Kalman Juvelier from Perlmutter, Arnold, Herman Wohl, and Solomon Small. DerTalles. Theodore Lohr, New York, 1906. Notated Music. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200154944/>.

Kalman Juvelier was born in Lemberg, Eastern Galicia (now Poland), on May 12, 1863. He showed great musical talent as a youth, and by age nine was singing as a meshoyrer (cantorial chorister) with the acclaimed cantor and composer Baruch Schor. In his teens he traveled throughout Galicia performing as a folk singer before landing in the city of Czernovitz, Ukraine, where he started his theatrical career.

Photograph of Isa Kremer from Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Iza_Kremer.jpg

An international star famous for bringing Yiddish music to the concert stage, Isa Kremer dedicated her career to performing and championing Yiddish folk songs.

Photograph of Pepi Litman, from Zalmen Zylbercweig, ed., Leksikon fun Yidishn teater, Vol. 2: 1054.

Known for her bold performance style and powerful voice, Pepi Littman was a leading actor and troupe leader in fin de siècle Yiddish theater.

Photograph of David Medoff, from Zalmen Zylbercweig, ed., Leksikon fun Yidishn teater, Vol. 2: 1339.

David Eli Medoff was one of the most prolific artists of the 1910s and 1920s, recording over 300 sides primarily for Columbia and Victor. Born in 1888 in Kropyvnytskyi, Ukraine (then Elizavetgrad, Russia), Medoff began his career singing with the synagogue in Kremenchuk in 1900. He started acting in 1907, touring with various theater groups and eventually making his way to Harbin, a Russian settlement in what is now the People’s Republic of China. He immigrated to the U.S.

Joseph Moskowitz and his tsimbl. Photograph from Archive.org, https://archive.org/details/JosephMoskowitzCymbalomArgentineDanceTangoArgentino421916

Joseph Moskowitz was one of the foremost tsimbl players of the early twentieth century and a staple of the New York Yiddish community for nearly four decades. A child prodigy who began playing professionally before entering his teens, Moskowitz would later make the first tsimbl recordings in the United States.

Image from September 1903 Lambert catalog, courtesy of David Giovannoni.

The Russian-born singer William Namrell arrived in the U.S. in 1901, just months before recording eight cylinders for the Standard Phonographic Company of New York (released later by the Lambert Company). His voice clearly indicates cantorial training, and according to census records he worked as a cantor until at least 1910. By the late 1910s he had redefined himself as an operatic baritone, performing with the Interstate Opera Company of Cleveland, Ohio.

Image of Arnold Perlmutter from Wohl, Herman, Arnold Perlmutter, and A Shor. DasZiegele. Theodore Lohr, New York, New York, 1904. Notated Music. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200185795/>.

Arnold Perlmutter, best known for his collaborations with Herman Wohl, composed many of Yiddish music’s most popular songs and operas, blending folk tunes and cantorial hymns with opera, marches, and waltzes to create the modern yet familiar melodies of U.S. Yiddish theater.