In 1932, Hirsch Levin founded Semer Records, a label devoted to producing and preserving the music of Jewish Berlin. Six years later, on Kristallnacht, the Nazis burned 4,500 of Semer’s records, subsequently destroying all of its master recordings and murdering most of its artists. For nearly 50 years, this music was thought lost until, scouring the globe for surviving records, a German musicologist successfully reconstituted much of Semer’s catalogue.
Now a group of Jewish musicians calling themselves the Semer Ensemble has recorded an album of twelve of these rescued songs. Rescued Treasure covers a range of styles from cabaret to pop originally sung by the German Jewish star Willy Rosen.
Among the five Yiddish-language songs on the album is “Scholem Baith” (“domestic tranquility”), about a dysfunctional couple who repeatedly argue and make up. “With its absurd threats of suicide,” Jordan Kutzik writes, “vicious curses and an over-the-top yet unironic sensibility, the routine serves as a charming remnant of a nearly-forgotten Yiddish cabaret tradition.”
Listen to one of the songs here: