Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Dr. Leo Kopp

K. was born in 1889 in Kremenetz, Volin. He was descended from generations of cantors. As a youth he was a choir boy for his father -- the city cantor. Also he sung with other cantors.

Te composer Henekh Kon writes:

"(Cantors) rained over him, exclaimed him for his good ear, and most of all for his rare voice that sounded like a violin. The cantors for whom he sang acted like he was a treasure, because he was such a prolific soloist that Jews told him entire legends. ... Leibele became a celebrity. He quickly learned the wisdom of night reading and writing, and as a young man he became a good shul conductor. Already from childhood, with his father in the house, he absorbed in himself Jewish melodies (nigunim), cantorial nusakh and popular melodies. The Jewish style and color received a correction in its later compositions.

We both studied in Berlin. ... Apparently he was in 'Stern's Conservatory.' I was told that he had a job as a conductor in a temple, only in 1911 did I meet him in Lodz as the conductor for 'HaZamir.'

Leo Kopp was an academically educated musician. In his conducting he was not what we call "a showman." He did not make too much of a move, yet he emerged for all the nuances and dynamics that changed from the choral composition. He learned a lot from the Vienna and Berlin conductors.


He disciplined the Lodz "HaZamir" chorus with all the nuances and dynamics, which held fast at that pace. ... already it was the first concert to be called out many times. ... There was such enthusiasm, such clapping. ... Suddenly I realized that Leo Kopp was off to Berlin. There was "gossip," which was something of a dispute between him and the management. He was an ambitious human being. He left "HaZamir" and went away."

In 1913 K. was conductor and also leader of a synagogue choruses in Germany, for which he created a large number of secular and synagogal compositions.

K. traveled to Poland and in 1913 was conductor in Lodz in Zandberg's "Grand" Theatre, where he wrote the music for Y.L.[Yehuda Leib] Boymvol's operetta, "Dirh-gelt."

In 1939, with his wife and daughter, saved themselves in London, where he lived until 1947, when they arrived in America. Here K. was appointed head of the Jewish Philharmonic Chorus in New York, where he was very beloved among the singers. Not looking at his poor health, he offered a lot of industry, knowledge and love for the folk singer.

About his later period, Henekh Kon writes:

"Leo Kopp became a Berlin resident. There he conducted with a Yiddish chorus. It is not known to us what compositions he wrote there because when the war broke out, he had to flee from Germany, not even appeared to bring his archive. In 1939 we met him in London, where he conducted with a string orchestra, and also with a choir. So he became, like us all, a wanderer from country to country, until he arrived in America in 1948. A year later he was the conductor of a 'philharmonic chorus.' He led a chorus in various oratorios by Jacob Schaefer and Shostakovich's 'Gezang fun di velder.' Here in the United States, his muse began to serve him again -- taking a further liking to the work. He composed interesting choral works, such ass 'Eybik folk (Eternal People),' 'Hele tseloykhtene zinger (Bright, Vocal Singer?),' texts from Z. Weinper, and 'Treys mayn folk' by Y.L. Peretz.

Leo Kopp thought that he would find a resting place here, But he could not forget his dead family. After four years of creative activity, his heart stopped ... "

After a serious illness, G. passed away on 28 February 1953 in New York.

Z. Weinper writes:

"A composer with significant achievements in Europe in the field of Jewish liturgy and charisma, He fell into New York after a fire-flood. When he took over the leadership of the New York Philharmonic Folk Choir, he brought with him the hope of becoming Jacob Schaefer's musical tradition, in particular, this hope was reinforced when he broke into the ears of the Jewish music lover his wonderfully large oratorio to my poem "Eternal People." ... on a holiday, that the Philharmonic People's Choir performed in honor of the oratorio, He said that what he found in the poem "Eternal People" was what he had long sought to bring out -- the sorrow of the dead by the Nazi hands, and the hope of victory of the Jewish people, which is eternal. It was an unforgettable evening back then. The Jewish folk singer spontaneously raised all parts of the oratorio, especially the parts of comfort, hope and victory over the wicked. This master's high figure looked even higher, and his already carved face from the singer to him. ... We began to weave a piece of further collaboration for the choir, but more than just one little song, "Bright, Vocal Singer," he has not appeared to be brought out through his music."

In "Yiddish Culture" (New York, No. 6, 1950), there was published K.'s article, "The Development of Yiddish Music," excerpts from a paper that he presented on a music panel for an IKUF convention.

Sh.E. from Zalmen Zylbercweig.

  • R.Z. -- Fun khodesh tsu khodsh, "Yiddish Culture," N.Y., N' 3, 1953.

  • Z. Weinper -- Bikher un mentshn, dort, N' 4, 1953.

  • Henekh Kon -- Esayen vegn yidishe kompozitorn un dirigentn (in 50 yor yidish gezang in amerike," editor Mordecai Yardeni). New York, 1864, pp. 83-85.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 6, page 5084.

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