One of the most celebrated composers and orchestra leaders in Yiddish music, Abraham “Abe” Ellstein was born on July 7, 1907 in New York City. He studied piano under the famous composer Frederick Jacobi as a child, and later attended The Juilliard School. He debuted as a composer in 1928 when he composed the music for Eppelbaum’s “Gerangl,” performed by members of the Vilna troupe. Ellstein was next hired as the principal composer for Ludwig Satz’s Folk Theater, where he worked on productions including “Zayn vaybns lubovnik." He toured Europe and South American with Molly Picon, writing music for Goldfaden’s Shmendrik, Schorr-Rushinsky’s “Molly Dolly,” and in 1936 composed the music for Picon’s Yidl mitn fidl.
Ellstein continued composing for film and stage throughout the 1940s and 1950s, and in 196s debuted his sole opera, The Golem. He also composed for and conducted synagogue choirs regularly throughout his career and various classical works including Ode to the King of Kings in 1958.
He died March 22, 1963.
Here, the Abe Ellstein Orchestra performs “Freilichs,” recorded October 6, 1939 for Victor.