“Bitter Suite” (2020-21) by Martin Bresnick – Elly Toyoda, violin and Lisa Moore, piano

I. Oyfn Veg (00:20)

II. Mayn Rue Plats (05:56)

III. Chorny Kot/Shvartse Kats (11:51)

IV. Dona, Dona (14:52)

Oyfn Veg (On the Road) This story was told to Itsik Manger, composer of the original Oyfn Veg, by Marek Edelman. Marek Edelman was one of the great Bundists of Poland, a surviving commander of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (the armed resistance by the Jews that lasted 3 weeks and kept the S.S. from continuing their evacuation of the Ghetto): “The Warsaw Ghetto was in its death throes. In order to subdue the remaining Ghetto fighters, the Germans began throwing incendiary bombs into the buildings. The heat became unbearable. Thousands burned to death. We had little ammunition left. Only one choice – to abandon our bunkers and try to make our way outside, to the tunnels that led to the Aryan side. Coming out of our bunker, we were stunned. The whole Ghetto was in flames. This must have been what Jerusalem looked like when the Romans destroyed it, what Rome must have looked like when Nero burned it. Then suddenly a girl in our band began to recite, or better, to mutter: “Oyfn veg shteyt a boym/ shteyt er ayngeboygn/ Ale feygl funem boym/ zenen zich tzefloygn. . .” (On the road stands a tree, all bent over. All the birds in the tree have flown away… She barely muttered it, but we all heard it. And we felt that not only had the birds departed, but everyone- fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters…” Manger added: “I wrote that song in the 30’s, in tribute to my mother, a simple woman who couldn’t read or write but had an ocean of love, love that could become too heavy for even the strongest wings. But the song itself now belongs to that unknown girl in the Warsaw Ghetto. She hallowed it in the last seconds of her life in the glare of the Ghetto flames.” Oyfn Veg folk song link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45KYq…

Mayn Rue Plats (My Resting Place) Morris Rosenfeld (1862-1923), one of the “Sweat Shop Poets,” described the brutal conditions of the garment industry, where he himself had worked for years. In his poem “Mayn Rue Plats” (My Resting Place) Rosenfeld captured the dismal world of the modern industrial worker. If we seek the poet among of the pleasures of youth, flowers, and singing birds, we are told, “you will not find me there.” He asks his beloved, if she loves him with a true love, “to make sweet” his resting place. Mayn Rue Plats folk song link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJkBG… Chorny Kot/Shvartze Kats (Black Cat) Chorny Kot or Shvartze Kat is a song about a black cat that is heard as often in Russian as in Yiddish. A black cat is harassed and reviled for no other reason than people’s superstitions about the shade of her fur. The cruelty done to her is due only to human ignorance. No black cat has been shunned by another cat because of her color… Chorny Kot folk song link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09geh… Shvartse Kats folk song link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXx0t…

Dona, Dona Dona, Dona is a song about the fate of a bird, a calf, and the driver who must deliver the bound calf to market while the bird flies freely in the sky. All the while the wind laughs in the corn, laughs the whole day through and half the night. Why wasn’t the calf born a bird, free to fly away, asks the driver? Why? Why? Dona, Dona folk song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIfRC…

Dona, Dona is dedicated to my dear friend Elly Toyoda, violinist, who gave the first performance of this final song in my “Bitter Suite.”

https://www.martinbresnick.com https://www.lisamoore.org https://www.ellytoyoda.com Recorded and filmed with a live audience at Firehouse12 Studio B https://www.firehouse12.com on November 7th 2021

Greg DiCrosta audio engineer

Nick Lloyd audio mastering and editing

Elly Toyoda video editor

Mateusz Zechowski video filming