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Leibu Levin (1914 - 1983)

Yiddish reciter, singer and composer. My father.


Meyer Ebner On Leibu Levin 

“…Dr. Landau introduced to the audience a young man whose name should not be forgotten. Probably, we’ll hear from him again and again. Levin isn’t a singer, rather he’s an artistic reader. He’s not a reader, rather he’s an actor. As a matter of fact he’s all in one: singer, artistic reader, actor and poet. Why also poet? He reads to us only the poems of others, does he not?
That being so, this is the secret of his art. He reveals what is hidden between the lines. He brings the poet to completion. He draws from the poet’s soul riches the poet himself did not know of, riches that were hidden in his sub-conscious… Frequently the words of the text in his mouth serve solely as a stimulus that awakens – just for a passing moment – the poetic spiritual inheritance of his own, and that has always to be born anew, like the music.

The art of Leibu Levin needs not only to be heard, though, but also to be seen. He himself one has to hear and see, how he breathes into the dim hall, into the pearls of strangers’ poetry, his young burning soul, the creative, sometimes ecstatic, and sometimes weeping soul…  His profound understanding drew one deeply into the fables of Eliezer Steinbarg and the ballads of Itzik Manger. From time to time the reader becomes singer, and only when he was seen as well as heard, did I finally understand the meaning of the old expression “to sing and to say” regarding troubadours and minnesingers. When his spoken word passes to song, it reminds me of a flying ship hovering above the earth and taking off to the blue heavens…

Talent is as rare as gold. From the gold it is possible to forge a holiday crown for priests who serve gods and it is possible to pay with it the penance for sinful impurity…Talent can be refined to capture surpassing art, or can descend to cheap popular entertainment. It seems to me that all in Leibu Levin aspires toward and is uplifted to the shining heights of noble art .”

Dr. Meyer Ebner
The newspaper “Ost-Yiddishe Zeitung”, 2.6.1935

an Anthology of Music to Yiddish Poetry by

Leibu Levin

I. L. Peretz Publications

The anthology contains 49 songs to poems by 29 Yiddish poets, 

as well as piano arrangements by Hanan Winternitz, 

preface and epilogue by  Ruth Levin, photos and drawings. 

All the texts are in Yiddish, English & Hebrew.

“I will bring to mind my tune in the night, commune with my heart and of my spirit inquire” (Psalm LXXVII, verse 7) – such was my feeling when I studied the songs of Leibu Levin. In the collection of songs before us the words and the music are united as one being. Leibu Levin’s melodies,steeped in European-Jewish essence, flow naturally to accord with the rhythm arising from the words, most of which were written in Yiddish. Among the poems he composed to, those by the greatest Yiddish poets stand out – Itzik Manger, 
H. Leivick, Haim Nahman Bialik, Ahron Zeitlin, Moshe-Leib Halpern. 
Alongside the epic-folk spirit of the melodies there emerges in most of the songs a more intimate, refined lyricism as well. Leibu Levin’s songs merit inclusion among the cultural treasures of European Jewish music, which is an integral part of European musical culture as a whole. And I am convinced that all lovers of poetry and music will draw from them not only pleasure and satisfaction, but also the sense that in their preservation and in their being heard there is, in addition, something of historic justice.


Tzvi Avni

 ?וועמען וועסטו זינגען, וועמען

  Vemen vestu zingen, vemen?

Who will you sing to?

Leibu Levin Performs in Yiddish

Selected archival recordings

from Bukovina, USSR and Israel​
Commentaries: Michael Lukin

Jewish Music Research centre 
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

This CD is based on the comprehensive compilation and cataloging

of Leibu Levin’s surviving historical recordings scattered in private collections and archives, most especially at the Sound Archives at the National Library of Israel. It includes a selection of a representative corpus of songs performed by Leibu Levin with or without instrumental accompaniment.  

Michael Lukin, a researcher of the JMRC specializing on Yiddish song

and culture in Eastern Europe prepared a detailed scholarly essay

on Leibu Levin’s oeuvre. The accompanying booklet also includes a full transcription, transliteration and translation of all the texts into English, Hebrew and Russian as well as biographical information about the poets. 

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