" Klezmer is an interpretation of art and life based not solely on Jewish folklore, but rather on a cosmopolitan divergence of musical genres" Giora Feidman 

Back |  Print  |  Bookmark
German Goldenshteyn
A living tradition


German Goldenshteyn was born in 1934 in the Bessarabian Shtetl of Otaci ( Bessarabia  is a territorial entity bounded by the Dniester River on the east and the Prut River on the west). Otaci was then part of Romania, now it's Moldova.

During WW2, Romania entered the war on the side of the Axis powers. The young boy and all his family were interned in a Romanian Ghetto named Bershad. His parents did not survive and perish from disease and Starvation.

When the Soviet troops occupied the Romanian territory, he and his brothers were brought up in an orphanage.

A member of the Soviet military Band noticed the musical talent of the Goldenshteyn brothers and facilitated their admission in a music school in Odessa, where he studied clarinet.

He served in the Soviet army, playing for the Red army Band and then in 1956 settled in Ukraine where he became a machinist in the town of Mogilev Podolski .

At the same time he performed in a small wedding band, German and his fellow musicians were traveling from village to village, from town to town just like the traditional Klezmorim of the 1800s and early 1900s.There he met those older musicians and learned from them hundreds of traditional and popular Bessarabian tunes.

Bessarabia is at the crossroad of different cultures, Jewish, Gypsy, Ottoman, Slavic, Balkan..., the convergences of all those patrimonies make up a rich and contrasted repertoire. Though the post-war Soviet regime depressed the Jewish culture, but the music overcame the repression. Goldenshteyn played thousands of Simhas, Horas, Sirbas and Freylakhs. He was a quick learner but it was quite difficult to remember by heart so many melodies, so, meticulously he filled his notebooks with tunes. Each time he learned a new tune he was writing it down so as not to forget. Year after year he compiled a thousand of melodies.

These notebooks are the largest known collection of Klezmer manuscript transcriptions and represent an ethno- musicological treasure.

It is like the Rabbis who kept private notes (megilot starim) when the Jewish Law was still oral. Then the Rabbinic discourse began to be recorded in formal writing and became the Talmud.

The notes of German Goldenshteyn are the first "Klezmer fake book".

When in 1994 he arrived in the United States, he was a living encyclopedia, a walking musicological treasure.

He carried Bessarabian's tradition with him and was a important milestone of the Klezmer revival initiated in the 70s.

Born in the Old World like his famous predecessors, Dave Tarras, Naftule Brandwein, Goldenshteyn is one of the nearest link to the Eastern European Klezmer tradition. 

Michael Alpert, an ethnomusicologist, friend and collaborator said: "His appearance here in the United States, and his presence in our lives, for all of us in the klezmer and Yiddish and Jewish communities, was one of the most important developments in the past ten years of the whole klezmer phenomenon. His presence breathed new life into this entire repertoire and culture. You felt in his playing, in his presence, in his whole being, that he was a bridge to -a repository of- this entire culture, he is the closest thing that the Klezmer revival has had to a Woodie Guthrie or a Leadbelly."

He died of a heart attack while fishing in Long Island, New York in 2006.


German Goldenshteyn

German Goldenshteyn, from the Red army to America






 ↑ Back to Top


Bookmark and Share



Giora Feidman
"We have one Torah, one shofar, one flag, and the expression of all that is the nigun, any nigun. It's not a song, it's an energy which results from an interpretation of the faith."




"Long live Giora, his clarinet and his music! He builds bridges between generations, cultures and classes, and he does it with perfect artistry!" Leonard Bernstein