Searching for Leo Zeitlin

By Ann Rabinowitz

Sometimes, music and genealogy work hand-in-hand as is illustrated by the research which was undertaken to produce the critical new edition on the chamber music of Jewish composer Leo Zeitlin (1884-1930).  The book, written by Paula Eisenstein Baker, regularly a poster on the JewishGen digest, and her colleague Robert Nelson, examines a long neglected and forgotten composer whose Russian musical roots were exported to the 1920’s in New York City.

Many years ago, I came in contact with Paula when I found a CD on-line at Beit Hatefutsoth, “The St. Petersburg School”, which had been produced by the Feher Jewish Music Center.  It featured cello and piano compositions of the members of the Society for Jewish Folk Music in St. Petersburg and included Leo Zeitlin as well as many other precursors of modern Jewish music such as Joseph Achron, Joel Engel, Mikhil Krein, Mikhail Gneissin, Solomon Rosowsky and Alexander Veprik.  After that discovery, Paula and I corresponded regularly regarding locating information on Zeitlin and the Society.

Paula’s interest in genealogy and her professional music background (cellist and adjunct instructor of cello and chamber music at University of St. Thomas, Houston), were well-used to produce her latest book which not only delves into the connections to the Society for Jewish Folk Music, but also discusses Zeitlin’s connections to musical compositions for the Capitol Theater in New York City. 

To learn more about Paula’s search for Zeitlin and her subsequent book, “Leo Zeitlin:  Chamber Music” (A-R Editions, Inc.), read along with Aaron Howard’s story in the Jewish Herald -Voice, February 26, 2009 edition.

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