Gustav Mahler was Jewish though not religious. Yet he was superstitious. When he began composing his ninth symphony, in 1908, he refused to name it by its number. Many of his artistic heroes—Beethoven, Schubert, Bruckner—died before they could finish their ninth symphonies, so Mahler thought he would out-do fate and simply call it by another name. He dubbed it “Das Lied von der Erde,” and its one of his best.
The recent passing — just nine days apart — of Jerry Bock, 81, composer for “Fiddler On The Roof,” and Joseph Stein, 98, who wrote the musical’s book (based, of course, on Sholom Aleichem’s short stories), leads us — those old enough, anyway — to recall and honor the remarkable energizing impact that the show had on the Jewish community of 1964.
Jerry Seinfeld said the other week that his first visit to Broadway “was when my parents probably shlepped me to ‘Fiddler on the Roof.” So it was for a lot of us.