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
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
The notes of German Goldenshteyn are the first "Klezmer fake
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
He died of a heart attack while fishing in Long Island, New York in
German Goldenshteyn, from the Red army to America
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