Semer Jewish Music Recordings Rediscovered

Semer Ensemble – Rescued Treasure – Live at Gorki Berlin (Piranha Musik, 2016)

The Semer Ensemble specializes in recreating the Jewish music of 1930s Germany. The album Rescued Treasure – Live at Gorki Berlin includes recreations of cabaret, 1930s dance music, classical music, Russian folk songs, Yiddish theater hits, operatic arias, and cantorial music.

To set the context to this new recordings, we need to go back to the early 20th century. Berlin-based record producer Hirsch Lewin started a label called Semer in 1932. This gramophone record company made thousands of recordings, capturing the essence of the Jewish music performed during the era. On November 9, 1938, Lewin’s store was attacked and 4,500 recordings and 250 metal plates were destroyed.

From 1992-2001, musicologist Dr. Rainer E. Lotz traveled the world to locate the Semer recordings. He was able to recover and restore nearly the entire catalog. In 2012, the Berlin Jewish Museum Berlin commissioned New Jewish Music artist Alan Bern to create new versions of the archival recordings.

Bern recruited musicians from the United States and Berlin. “It‘s amazing, but 80 years after the destruction of this culture there is once again a critical mass of musicians in Berlin able to take on a project like this,“ says Bern.

The lineup on Rescued Treasure – Live at Gorki Berlin includes Alan Bern on piano, accordion, music director; Daniel Kahn on vocals, accordion; Fabian Schnedler on vocals, electric guitar; Lorin Sklamberg on vocals, accordion; Mark Kovnatsky on violin; Paul Brody on trumpet; and Sasha Lurje on vocals.

Rescued Treasure – Live at Gorki Berlin is a significant recording of music that had nearly disappeared and is brought back to life decades later by skilled musicians from both sides of the Atlantic.

Buy Rescued Treasure – Live at Gorki Berlin

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.

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