Back to Isa Kremer

Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I was contacted a week ago by Itzik Gottesman, director of the An-sky Jewish Folklore Research Project regarding a song he has posted on the blog The Yiddish Song of the Week (, “Ven ikh volt gehat dem keysers oytsres” (If I had the Emperor’s treasures), specifically regarding a recording of the song by our old friend, Isa Kremer.

Isa Kremer

Apparently it figured prominently in her repertoire. So, not only did she commit the song to disc, but she did so twice, and published it in her collection Album of Jewish Folk-Songs (The Jewish Life in Song) (Chappel & Co., Ltd., London, New York and Sydney, 1930).

So I thought it might be nice to post her version here. Please do refer to the Yiddish Song of the Week blog for more detailed information on the song itself.

Here is Kremer’s first version, recorded in New York in February 1923 with Kurt Heltzel at the piano.

A Wiegelied








Here is the second version, recorded circa 1945 with an ensemble led by Yiddish theater composer Alexander (Shura) Olshanetsky.








The first version includes the middle verse mentioned in Itzik’s blog notes, the second doesn’t. Interesting to note the difference in the two performances, 20 years apart – at age 40 and 60, respectively. In addition to a lower key and deeper vocal sound (presumably to accommodate Kremer’s vocal resources in her later years), the 1940s brings a beautiful use of her floated head voice at the end.

Here is the song as it appears in Kremer’s music folio:






















I also thought it might be interesting to show the original lyrics by Mikhl Gordon on which this song is based, as they appeared in his collection Di bord, un dertsu nokh andere sheyne yidishe lider (The Beard and Other Beautiful Yiddish Songs, Zhitomir, 1868).





























I also cataloged recently a test pressing of an apparently unissued recording of Kremer performing a creepy French song, “Le Petit Navire,” which appears in its entirety in a collection of essays published by Sigmund Freud (!). But that’ll have to wait until next time…


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Back to Isa Kremer

  1. Thanks Lorin for posting the recordings, Kremer’s printed version and especially Mikhl Gordon’s original poem, which is so hard to find! It’s always interesting to see how the “folk” edited the original much longer text – and usually they get it right in their redaction. If we are to vote for which Isa Kremer version of the song we prefer, I vote for the one she sang at age 60. I find it more motherly, more moving, and more folkish stylistically. And now that i hear it, it’s hard to believe that Kremer’s version did not influence the Ita Taub version posted on the “Yiddish Song of the Week” blog.

  2. Yankl Falk says:

    I want to echo Itzik’s comment. There’s no way one could imagine lulling a baby to sleep with the earlier recording, but the 1945 version has such warmth and heart. Exquisite – and that last piano chord is such a delicious tsushpayz!

  3. marlena1st says:

    Thanks so much Lorin for the Isa info. I’m looking for a playbill to a NYC Town Hall concert by Isa, Sidor Bilarsky, and Cass Franklin did to benefit the Hebrew Hay Fever Association which was connected to my Bethlehem Hebrew Congregation in Bethlehem, NH. I’ve tried the NY public library. Any ideas? Thank you. Marlena

  4. Steven Lasky says:

    Just a note to tell you that Isa Kremer is biographied in Zalmen Zylbercweig’s “Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre”, Volume 4.

    If you go to, you can download Volume 4 for free, then go to pdf page 619 (actual book page 3641), and if you can read Yiddish, you can learn more about her.

    I am currently translating into Yiddish the six (actually seven) volumes of the Lexicon, having completed more than seven hundred of the more than twenty-eight hundred biographies included within these volumes.

    Steve Lasky

  5. Geoff Woolfe says:

    hi – I just found your info re this song- I have been given a copy of the Chappell /Kremer songs from 1930. I’m in the UK and read or speak Yiddiish( but my father did) we have some yiddish readers here in Bristol though
    So thanks –

  6. Thank you so much, Steve. I’ll get help reading the article.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s