Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Leo Loew
(Moshe Leyb)


Born on 15 January 1878 in Volkovisk, Grodno Gubernia, Polish Lithuania. His parents were engaged in business. He received a strong religious education. Already at age eight he knew melodies to music; at age twelve he prayed from pages (emud) as a "wonder child," and at the age of fifteen conducted with a large chorus in the Vilna city shul.

As a student of Warsaw's conservatory, he came in the summer oyf tsurloyb in Kiev, and there was choral master of a Russian operetta troupe and also in Fiszon's Yiddish troupe. At the age of twenty-two he graduated from the conservatory and became a military Kapellmeister, then conductor in various non-Yiddish and Yiddish troupes. In the time he wrote, together with Yitzhak Schlossberg, the music for Lateiner's "The Destruction of Jerusalem." Being with Kompaneyets in a troupe, L. also tried acting, and when they used to perform dramas and he didn't conduct, he used to participate in the productions.

Then L. became engaged in the Vilna Great Synagogue as a permanent conductor for Cantor Gershon Sirota. Here L. wrote synagogal compositions for solos and chorus, which were included in the repertoire of Sirota and other cantors.

1902 -- L. arranged his first religious concert in Vilna, then performed with other concerts in Minsk, Grodno, Bialystok, Warsaw and other cities with Sirota as a soloist.

1905 -- L. was music conductor in Bucharest's Reform temple., where he directed a new repertoire with more of a Yiddish content, and wrote preludiums for authorities. Here he also studied music for several years with Cohen-Linaru, writing synagogal compositions and gave a series of concerts of the synagogue and classical music.

1908 -- L. became the main choral conductor in Warsaw's Tłomackie Synagogue, where he formed a chorus that gained a great popularity. In the span of his twelve-year activity in Warsaw (until 1920), L. had created many vocal and instrumental compositions and many works in the field of folk music, performing as music director of the local "Hazamir" in the family evening in special programs of folksongs, holding lectures about folk music and writing music for the texts of Yiddish poets, including "a Purim song" from Sh. Frug, which in 1910 was staged in Vilna in a ethnographic concert.

L. also traveled across cities and towns and collected folksongs, Chasidic melodies that they adapted, and a part of them, as well as original melodies, were published by the publisher "Nigun."

1913 -- L. went with Sirota on a concert tour across America (16 weeks), and when he returned to Warsaw, he wrote music to light folksongs, translated from children's songs, songs from Peretz and other Yiddish writers for the Yiddish children's homes under the leadership of Peretz and Dinezon.

During the German occupation, L. again founded a chorus, with which he gave concerts, then became a conductor of the Bundist chorus with a large club in Warsaw, for which he adapted worker- and revolutionary songs.

1920 -- again arrived in America with Cantor Mordechai Hershman as a soloist, then arranged concerts for secular, synagogal and Yiddish folk music and original compositions.

Excited by Boris Thomashefsky about Yiddish theatre, L. wrote the music to Thomashefsky's libretto "Dos muzikalishe shtetl," which on 24 December 1920 was staged in Thomashefsky's National Theatre.

Afterwards, L. became conductor in Peterson's Yiddish Singing Association, where he had besides Yiddish folksongs, also inserted fragments of oratories. Later L. organized a chorus for the National Jewish Workers Union in New York, reorganized the Brownsville Schubert Singing Association, and became a music teacher in the Jewish Teachers' Seminary.

As a singing teacher in the Arbeter Ring synagogue, L. there staged (in June 1924) the children's operetta "Di bafreyung fun friling" by Giligtsh, to which he wrote music.

In March 1929 in the Manhattan Opera House, there was staged the ten-year anniversary of the Arbeter Ring synagogue, performed through the children with a symphony orchestra, "Der lider-krants fun kinder shpil-plats biz di barikadn, geflokhtn fun folkslider, arbeter-in kamf-lider," libretto and music by L.

On 15 February 1930, L. staged with a chorus of Jewish National Worker's Union tradesmen an oratorio "Yehuda Hamaccabi" (Yiddish -- Malka Loker).

1931 -- L. visited Eretz Yisrael and staged performed there with concerts with a large opera chorus.

L. is now a chorus conductor in the Beth-El Temple in Borough Park in New York.

Sh. E.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Lyov's operete in thomashevsky's theater, "Forward", N. Y., 4 January 1921.

  • Aaron H. Rozen -- Lyovs "muzikalishe shtedtel" in thomashevsky's teater, "Yidtgbl't", N. Y., 5 January 1921.

  • Wm. Edlin -- Leo lyovs operete in tomashevsky's teater, "Tog", N. Y., 5 January 1921.

  • Morris Barkin -- Vegen dos "muzikalsihe shtetel", "Fraye arbayter shtime", N. Y., 29 January 1921.

  • F. Gelibter -- Di bafreyung fun friling, "Forward", N. Y., 20 June 1924.

  • Dr. A. Mukdoni -- Dem frilings bafreyung, "Morning Journal", N. Y., 20 June 1924.

  • Ray Ratkin -- Der muzikalisher viftu fun di idishe kinderlekh, "Tog", N. Y., 20 June 1924.

  • Gdal Salesky -- "Famous Musicians of a Wandering Race", Bloch Publishing Co., N. Y., 1927.

  • "Who is Who in Music" -- Chief Editor; Dr. Sigmund Spaeth, Chicago, 1929.

  • L. Fogelman -- tsen-yoriger yubileum-kontsert fun di arbeyter ring shulen in manhetn opere hoyz, "Forward", N. Y., 8 March 1929.

  • Ts. H. Rubinstein -- Ven unzer kleynvarg tsezingt zikh, "Tog", N. Y., 8 March 1929.

  • M. Sherman -- Unter dem dirigir shtekele fun leo lyov, "Di idishe velt", Philadelphia, 27 September 1929.

  • Sh. -- A shmues mitn muziker leo lyov, "Literarishe bleter", Warsaw, 24, 1930.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 2, page 1022.

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