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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Teyku - Yiddish folk song (or not)

It was common for Jewish composers to seize upon songs considered folksongs, arrange/orchestrate them in a 'modern' manner, and affix their names to them. Leo Low did the arrangement of the only recording of this song I've found (see below, from youtube).

This is one of the rare cases where I was actually able to find a performance by the very performer Zhelonek cited and even so the text was not the same. In my sheet music the fancy piano flourishes are omitted and I provide simplified harmony. I have to say, I'm certainly not the right person to be singing this song but I'm the only one here at the moment!

About the concept of Teyku, from Berdichev.org:
Embedded within Teyku is the Hebrew letters Taf, Yud, Kuf and V, an acronym for “The Tishbite will solve the difficulties and problems.” The rabbis reason that in the future days, when the Tishbite, namely the prophet Elijah, the harbinger of the world to come arrives – he will solve the standing legal disputes.
Professor Shalom Goldman translated the acronym Teyku as I have it below, and he also explained that the passage cited, Shor shenagach es haporah (when an ox pushes a cow), is a talmudic discourse on civil damages that would have been well-known to theater-goers of Zhelonek's time, being one of the first difficult problems tackled by schoolboys.



Moshe Koussevitsky (1899-1966) was the most famous of four brothers who were all cantors (the other three were Yaacov, Simkha and David). Born in Poland, he succeeded Gerson Sirota as cantor of the Tlomackie Synagogue in Warsaw around 1927, and he is cited as singer in several of the songs in Itzik Zhelonek's collection. He survived the war in the Soviet Union and emigrated to America in 1947. This live recording of Teyku was made in 1959. My translation:

The old grandfather sits at the table, deeply involved in studying the gemorah. Within it is a great argument: "If an ox pushes a cow..." Every answer seems correct, there's no difference between them, teyku. ("Elijah will answer all questions at the end of time.")

His grandson sits by the window and looks out with sad eyes. Life calls but the All-powerful won't let him go. Youth is soon half flown away. Do you see, my beloved, asks the maiden, why life is bitter? The old man answers: teyku. ("Elijah will answer all questions at the end of time.")

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