Dovid Ayznshtat, Passover Cantata ‘Chad Gadya’ (One Little Goat)

This performing edition of Ayznshtat’s Passover Cantata ‘Chad Gadya’ (One Little Goat) was created by Dr Stephen Muir for the modern-day premiere of the work on Friday 14 March 2014, in the Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds. The concert was titled ‘Songs from a forgotten world’: Jewish choral music, old and new, and formed part of the University of Leeds International Concert Series.

The cantata’s autography manuscript is preserved in the red folder brought from Russia to Cape Town by Cantor Froim Spektor (1888–1948) in 1928. Ayznshtat (1890–1942) had known Spektor as a young man in Rostov-on-Don, but later became renowned as choirmaster of the extraordinary 100-strong choir of the Tłomackie Street Synagogue in Warsaw, with whom he conducted the premiere of Chad gadya in 1931. Inscriptions on the manuscript’s front cover tantalisingly hint at the broader illustrious musical connections (Alexander Glazunov, for example) that these hitherto little appreciated figures may have enjoyed.

Tragically, Ayznshtat did not survive the Holocaust. Initially he was a key figure in the Warsaw Ghetto’s cultural life from 1940. In 1942, however, he and his wife were placed in one line for the train to the extermination camp at Treblinka, and their daughter Maryisa (known as ‘the Nightingale of the Ghetto’) in another. Unable to bear the separation, Maryisa attempted to run to her parents, but was shot and killed by an SS officer. The composer and his wife are believed to have been shot immediately afterwards.

Dovid Ayznshtat, Passover Cantata 'Chad Gadya' (string quintet version)