LOVE SONGS FROM THE RUTH RUBIN COLLECTION
Photo credit: Nathan Stern
Love songs are, as Ruth Rubin writes, “the most numerous, popular, melodious and poetic” of all the categories of nineteenth-century Yiddish folk songs of East Europe. This program of mostly unaccompanied songs will dip a toe (if not more) into a sea of sometimes centuries-old Yiddish love songs and ballads collected by Ruth Rubin: humorous and poignant songs about longing, passion and despair, about subversion and freedom.
Ruth Rubin was born Rivke Rosenblatt in 1906 in Khotin (Bessarabia). Her family emigrated to Canada while she was still very young. She grew up in Montreal in a trilingual environment (Yiddish, English and French) before moving to New York, where she studied music and practiced clinical psychology, especially with the help of singing. From 1947 on, she undertook fieldwork among Jewish immigrants, particularly among “displaced persons” having survived the Shoah, who had just arrived. Over twenty years, she recorded roughly two thousand songs on 78-rpm records, which can now be found online: exhibitions.yivo.org/RuthRubin.
Ruth Rubin did not merely collect songs. When she gave recitals, she would perform the Yiddish songs a cappella, without any instrumental accompaniment, thus preserving the traditional and spontaneous character of her repertoire. Transmission was a veritable mission for her: during her career, she taught courses and gave lectures about traditional Yiddish songs in several universities, wrote numerous articles, published three books and nine recordings. She received a Ph.D. for her dissertation, “The Jewish Woman and her Yiddish Song”, but she was unable to prepare it for publication because of her state of health and her age. She died in 2000.
Eléonore Biezunski is a Parisian singer/violinist now living in NYC. An avid collector of Yiddish music, she co-founded and is a member of Ephemeral Birds, Yerushe, Lyubtshe, Shpilkes, Shtetl Stompers and Klezmographers and has collaborated with a large number of well-known Jewish performers here and abroad. Her recordings include Yerushe (IEMJ, 2016) and Zol zayn (2014). As YIVO’s Associate Sound Archivist, Eléonore is the Project Coordinator for the Ruth Rubin Legacy online exhibition (exhibitions.yivo.org/RuthRubin). She is a PhD candidate at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris and is a recipient of a NYSCA Folk Arts Apprenticeship.