Watch: Kissin speaks Yiddish, plays Debussy

Watch: Kissin speaks Yiddish, plays Debussy


norman lebrecht

July 09, 2020

Two new tracks from a bored pianist at home.



  • The Congress for Jewish Culture together with CIYCL (The California Institute for Yiddish Culture and Language) and Yung-Yidish of Tel Aviv present a special program
    Headlined by internationally renowned concert pianist and lover of mame-loshn Evgeny Kissin, this all-Yiddish program contains readings from Boris Sandler’s work

    The program will be broadcast LIVE ON YOUTUBE
    Sunday 12 July 2020
    2 PM EDT (New York Time)
    (21:00 Jerusalem; 20:00 Berlin; 19:00 London; 15:00 Rio / Buenos Aires; 11:00 AM Los Angeles; 4:00 Melbourne on Monday 13 July 2020)

    Youtube link available via the event Facebook page

    • psq says:

      While they are at it, they should have organized and present a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” in Yiddish. I saw an off Broadway production of it last year. It may not be so higfalutin as the rest of the CIYCL program, but … it hits you in the heart.

    • Brucknerliebhaber says:

      Thanks for the info. I am having trouble locating the necessary Youtube link to the event ( after searching on Facebook pages of CIYCL, YYTLV and Kissin…. ) Would you be kind enough to post the correct link here for those of us who are interested in streaming the live event ? Thanks!

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    Did Kissin grow up speaking Yiddish or did he learn it as a foreign language?

    • He grew up with it. His grandparents spoke Yiddish according to one his Youtube’s. He perfected his spoken and written knowledge more recently. Frankly as a native Yiddish speaker as my first languate actually, I find Kissin’s Yiddish not so clear to my ears….although it very correct.

      • fred says:

        Indeed I couldn’t figure out his Yiddish (needed the subtitles for quite a part) and I’ve lived more than 50 years in a yiddish speaking environment in Antwerp

    • fliszt says:

      No, he didn’t really grow up with it, because it was too dangerous to speak Yiddish openly in Soviet Russia. Kissin is self-taught in Yiddish.

    • Esfir Ross says:

      Yiddish’s not foreign language in USSR-many Ashkenazi Jews spoke it. It was my first language. Yiddish’s official language of Jewish Athonomy Region that part of Russia. Even EK’s a Jew he might not heard speaking by his parents.

  • Bloom says:

    He seems to belong to another century. In a very bizarre way. 19th century or something like that.

  • sam says:

    Does Yiddish have national accents? (Like Latin. Sounds beautiful by an Italian speaker, awful by an English speaker.). Does he speak Yiddish with a Russian accent?

    • Ruben Greenberg says:

      Good question. I suppose all languages have regional accents. A related question is to what extent does/did the grammar, vocabulary and idiomatic expressions of Yiddish vary from one country to the other?

    • Jo says:

      All languages have National accents – English, French, Spanish etc. Yiddish has various accents, depending on where the speaker is from – Poland, Russia, Rumania, etc.

    • Shalom Rackovsky says:

      Yiddish has many regional dialects, some so idiosyncratic [with respect to pronunciation, vocabulary and idioms] that they are comprehensible only with difficulty to speakers from other places. For example, my father spoke a highly literary version of Jerusalem Yiddish, and my mother spoke Ukrainian Yiddish. For both of them, it was their mother tongue. They almost never spoke Yiddish to one another, unless they didn’t want me to understand [which forced me to learn Yiddish…]. My in-laws were a similar case- my mother-in-law spoke Jerusalem Yiddish, and my father-in-law spoke the Yiddish of the Carpathian Mountains, and they never spoke Yiddish to one another, although they both spoke Yiddish freely to their siblings. The characteristic Yiddish of Jerusalem is closely related to that of Lithuania. EK seems to be speaking a relatively standard literary dialect with a significant Russian accent, and comprehension isn’t aided by the poor quality of the sound recording.

    • good question. Yiddish, like any language has a lot of dialects depending on where you come from. Big difference between Galizianer and Litvak Yiddish. Before the Holocaust, Warsaw boasted more than 23 Yiddish language newspapers…and every little Stetl, particularly in Poland, had their own Yiddish “gazette.” It’s such a beautiful and expressive language, with many great authors, playrights, actors, etc. Isaac Bashevis Singer gave his speech in Yiddish when he won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize. I always forget which is which. When anyone would ask where my particular Yiddish comes from, as my father told me, Lodz, Poland. The language uses the Hebrew alphabet…not so easy to read and write, but worth the effort to my heart and ears.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    “God’s patience is great’ – a grand phrase of course but what a load of tosh. It’s our patience down here which needs to be great

  • Greg Bottini says:

    He doesn’t sound bored to me.

  • Hermina Shiff says:


  • Victor Redlick says:

    I wish the audio was better. Mi bedarf kenne heiren.

  • Henry williams says:

    I find when kissin speaks english it is rather a strange accent. It does not sound like
    A russian speaking english.