11-CD/1-DVD (NTSC) boxed set (LP-size) with 516-page hardcover book, 256 tracks. Playing time approx. 829 mns.
"BEAR FAMILY deserve the gratitude of jews all over the world. This is the most exhaustive collection of Jewish music from Nazi Berlin ever recorded." - Jewish Telegraph (2002)
"The whole idea behind ‘Beyond Recall’ is that nothing recorded should ever be totally beyond recall. This prodigious BEAR FAMILY boxed set is like a chunk of the planet Krypton crashing our atmosphere – and not just because the accompanying 500-page, German and English book weighs almost eight pounds." - J. Hoberman, Village Voice (May 28, 2002)
"Informativ wie ein Lexikon und spannend wie ein Krimi: Kolossale Fleißarbeit!" - Der Spiegel (2002)
After Hitler's seizure of power in 1933, anti-Semitism became a state doctrine. The National Socialists' aim was the physical destruction of the Jews. Every memory of the sound and voice of Jewish artists was to be consigned to oblivion in the same way as the Yiddish language. On being liberated from Theresienstadt concentration camp, the Berlin Rabbi, Leo Baeck, stated his conviction that the 1,000 year history of the Jews in Germany had come to an irrevocable end. This documentation is proof of the victory of life over death - priceless sound documents have been rescued, then restored with a great expenditure of technological effort and, after sixty years, made available once more for all time.
Under constant surveillance by the Gestapo, the members of a Jewish Cultural League (Jüdischer Kulturbund) in Berlin were able to pursue their artistic activities and make and distribute records. Some of the titles recorded in Berlin were released in Palestine from 1934 to 1936 - forming part of the early history of Israel's record industry. These records that are scattered throughout the world for the most part exist only as single copies or test pressings. The repertoire is wide and includes classical music, Yiddish comedians, German cabaret, Palestinian folk songs and, above all, cantorial singing of enormous eloquence.
This edition consists of 11 CDs with a total playing time of more than 14 hours of music and a DVD with a reconstructed version of the sound film 'Hebräische Melodie' (Hebrew Melody) featuring the violinist Andreas Weissgerber
- this film was believed lost, but is now presented here for the first time. The accompanying hardback book is profusely illustrated and presented in both German and English. The text has been jointly prepared by the biographer Horst H. J. P. Bergmeier
, the historian Ejal Jakob Eisler
and the discographer Rainer E. Lotz
, and also contains an introduction by Rabbi Andreas Nachama
, a foreword by Henryk Broder
, an 'Introduction to the Jewish Liturgy' by Rabbi David Polnauer
as well as an explanation of sound recording techniques by the sound engineer Robert M. Laue
A letter from Michael Spudic Forest Hills, NY
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