Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Shmuel Vaynberg

Born 1882 in Kishinev, Bessarabia, to deeply religious Hasidic parents.  His father was a bookkeeper for a prosperous firm and so burdened with work that he had no time to help raise his children.  At age seven Shmuel chanced to get hold of a violin, and “picked out” a melody with one finger.  One year later, he was playing his instrument quite nicely by an open window when a passing gypsy musician overheard him.  This man tried to persuade his parents to allow him to study music, but to no avail.  Vaynberg writes in his autobiography:

My father was not overwhelmed by this idea.  I nonetheless began to study a bit with this musician, and he inspired in me great hope.  Yet however great my talent may have been, my antipathy toward study was even greater.  A rare phenomenon:  as soon the teacher played a lesson, I’d grasp it immediately.  In this way, I fooled him for a while, until one day he caught me out and ended our lessons, admonishing me with these words: “With such talent, with such ten fingers, but without the desire to learn, you might just as well dig a grave and bury yourself, because you’ll only squander your life away.”  My father was determined to make a proper man of me, and sent me to work first at a haberdashers, and then in a different business, a printing plant.  I did not stick to any of these places.  So at age 17 I left home and began a life of wandering.

In 1899 Sabsey’s troupe came to Kishinev and performed without success it seems, since the show fizzled out and Sabsey then took me into his company.  Fortunately, I was a jack-of-all-trades:  violinist, conductor, choirmaster, actor, property man, prompter.  And for all that, I earned but fourteen kopecks a day—that’s how we lived.  After a bit of time with Sabsey, I conducted for Feldman, then returned to Sabsey, this time as conductor.  After that I went to Meyerson, then to Kompaneyets, then to Lipovski in Vilna, where I composed music to Boymvol’s Lebendik un lustik.  I then traveled for a couple years with Genfer.  In 1914, just before the war, I came to Lodz to conduct for Zandberg’s troupe.  In 1916, I came to the Theater “Central” in Warsaw, across from the newly-built “Skala” theater.  I wrote music for Yoshke Muzikant [by Osip Dimow], Di mume geyt, Redaktor katshke [by Hokhshtayn], 5 Sambatyen [programs by Y. Nozhik], Zlate di rebitsin [by Y. Nozhik], and on and on.

Vaynberg was married to the prima donna Sonia Vaynberg (Leksikon, Vol. 1 col. 683), from whom he was divorced.  Their son, Moyshe, is a famous composer in the Soviet Union, and the son-in-law of the murdered Yiddish artiste Shlomo Mikhoels.  The actor Zalmen Koleshnikov reports that during the Second World War, Vaynberg was the conductor of a cinema orchestra, and was murdered in Luninets [Belorussia].  However, according to the “Yizkor-List” of the Polish State Yiddish Theater, Vaynberg was murdered by the Nazis in Poland.

Sh. E.

M. E. from Zalmen Koleshnikov.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 5, page 4847.

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