Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Yitskhok Pirozhnikov

Born on 8 May 1859 in Dnieper-Inzl Chorits, Urkaine. As the son of an engineer-mechanic, an auto-didact who also had proximity to authority. Until age thirteen he learned in a religious elementary school (cheder) and read many Hebrew books, which were in his father's rich library. From childhood on he manifested a desire for music, and against the wishes of his parent, entered into the Warsaw Conservatory and became a military kapellmeister in Dinaburg, then in Vilna, at the same time was a chorus and orchestra conductor for the Yiddish teacher's institute in Vilna.

Through a new method P. developed and popularized among the broad masses the playing of the concertina, and later by himself put together a concert tour with the instrument across Europe, America et al. In 1900 he left his previous post and in Vilna opened a printing shop and a Yiddish publishing house, in which he published both foreign and his own books. In Vilna he also founded the first Yiddish song association and performed in his Yiddish translation (in a Vilna concert hall) solo- and choral numbers from Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and the "meytim dance" by Studzinsky.

According to Noakh Nakhbush and A. Azro, in 1908 P. directed in Vilna with a literary-dramatic circle for the "Bund." According to Chaim Salki, P. stood at the head of the "Vilna Yiddish Scientific-Literary Circle" (active members: Peretz Hirshbein, David Einhorn, Jacob Ben-Ami, Chaim Levin, Y. Rozenboym.)


In 1912 he wandered off to America. Here he published many articles about music in "Tsukunft" (including in 1915-1916 about the offspring of Yiddish melodies), "Fraynd," "Dos naye vort," and for a certain time was a contributor for the "Forward," where he wrote articles about music and managed the department, "Replies to Questions About Music."

P. founded the first song union of the "Workmen's Circle" in New York and Patterson and the children's chorus in the Yiddish folk school, for which he alone created Yiddish texts and songs. He also adapted into Yiddish Andreyev's one-act comedy, "Mentsh-libe" and Chekhov's one-acter, "Kalkhaz" (Anton Chekhov, the swan-song [kalkhas], a dramatic study in one act, adapted by Y. Pirozhnikov. Max N. Mayzel, New York, 1919, 16 pp.), which in 1910 was staged through Jacob Ben-Ami.

On 14 June 1933 P. passed away in New York and was cremated.

Dr. Ts. Shabad wrote about his death:

"For our Vilna, however, in the nineties of the last century, Isak Osipovitsh Pirozhnikov  was an important figure, ...Pirozhnikov performed on the concertina, even in the Russian military, when for a certain time he served as a kapellmeister, and then in the teacher's institutes, starting from the Vilna Yiddish teacher's institute as a yearlong music teacher. So when the concertina became popular in Vilna, there was not one philanthropic evening where Pirozhnikov should not perform alone, or with his students with entirely interesting numbers. ...Pirozhnikov is one of the old autodidacts, who devoted their time to the children of Vilna, and then brought about their impact on the wider world."

Hirsh Abramovitsh wrote:

"Once Yitskhok Pirozhnikov played an entirely important role in the Vilna society life. He had a desire for work, which carried a cultural-societal character, and he was engaged in various literary and musical circles, where he used to at times perform with lectures. ...Being a musical director in the Vilna teachers' institute, he used to be involved in music, even a few students, so that almost every one of them had to take what it was. From his practice as a kapellmeister of a military orchestra... He used to submit a number of anecdotes and characteristic pictures. Generally Pirozhnikov was an interesting storyteller, a human being with a rich fantasy, and often one was not able to man, not able to differentiate his 'Dichtung fun varhayt (Poetry from Freedom?),' but that did not diminish the value of his rich experience and portrayal. F., In every detail was a cultured and educated man, a man with an aesthetic approach to everything ...Everyone who had read his articles in the 'Forward' has admired the popularity, with which Pirozhnikov had treated various musical problems, and the purity of the language.... Generally Pirozhnikov was an interesting type of a seeker, a dreamer and wanderer among the older generation of the Russian-Jewish intelligentsia, an unwavering spirit who perhaps hasn't found any repair in his personal life, but left a significant improvement in the history of lifting the culture among Jews (in this case -- musical). Hundreds of teachers have got to thank him for their musical education."

Sh.E. from  Noakh Nakhbush and A. Azro.

  • Z. Reisen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature," Vol. II, pp. 905-908.

  • Necrology in "Forward," 15 June 1933.

  • Dr. Ts. Shabad -- Yitskhok pirozhnikov, "Vilner tog," 30 June 1933.

  • Hirsh Abramovitsh -- Yitskhok pirozhnikov, "Di tsayt," Vilna, 30 June 1933.

  • Chaim Malski -- "In malpishe lapes," "Di tsayt," Vilna, 26 Oct. 1933.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- "Theatre Mosaic," New York, 1941, pp. 172-173.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 3, page 1825.

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