Sunday 5 March 2017


LEO LYOV (January 15, 1878-October 5, 1960)
            He was born in Volkovisk (Wołkowysk), Grodno district, Russian Poland.  He received a rigorous religious education.  From his early childhood years, he demonstrated musical talent.  In 1900 he graduated from the Warsaw Conservatory, and he went on for many years to compose music for Yiddish theater, was a choir director in the Tłomackie Synagogue in Warsaw and at “Hazemir” (The nightingale) theater studio in Warsaw, and traveled around giving musical concerts.  He lived in Warsaw, Vilna, and Lodz, and visited Israel and various countries of Western Europe.  In 1920 he settled in New York.  He wrote hundreds of melodies to Yiddish folk poetry, as well as to the poetic texts of Y. L. Perets, Kh. N. Bialik, Yehoash, Morris Rozenfeld, Yankev Fikhman, Yitskhok Katsenelson, and Alter Katsizne (Kacyzne) (Perets elegy “Shtiler, shtiler” [Quiet, quiet]), among others.  He adapted and wrote the text and music for a series of Yiddish children’s songs, a number of which were published in Kinderland (Children’s land) and Kinder-zhurnal (Children’s magazine) in New York, and were also published in album form: Hent-aroys (Hands up), Simkhes toyre marsh (Simkhes Torah march), Der shnayderl (The little tailor), and Zing, feygele (Sing, little bird), among others.  He composed dozens of musical numbers for Yiddish and Hebrew popular and art poems and to liturgical songs.  From 1912 he was publishing poems, articles, and memoirs about Jewish choirs in: Romantsaytung (Fiction newspaper) and Unzer leben (Our life) in Warsaw (1909-1911); Lodzer tageblat (Lodz daily newspaper) (1910-1913); Di khazonim-shtime (The voice of cantors) in Warsaw (1935-1937); Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal), Tog (Day), Tog-morgn-zhurnal (Day-morning journal), Idisher kemfer (Jewish fighter), and L. lyovs yoyvl-zhurnal (L. Lyov’s jubilee magazine) (1948)—all in New York.  In Mortkhe Yardeni’s monograph, Leo lyov, momentn fun zayn lebn un shafn (Leo Lyov, moments from his life and work) (New York, 1960), pp. 368-87, were published almost twenty songs and portion of a longer work by him, “Vegn idisher muzik, liturgisher un sekulerer” (On Jewish music, liturgical and secular).  He died in New York.

Sources: Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (New York, 1934), including a detailed bibliography; M. Yardeni, Leo lyov, momentn fun zayn lebn un shafn (Leo Lyov, moments from his life and work) (New York, 1960), 435 pp., including 56 pp. of bibliography; obituary notices in the New York Yiddish press on October 6 and 7, 1960.
Khayim Leyb Fuks

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