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J O U R N A L 


November 1969/KISLEV 5730 

Volume II 

Number 3 


Contemporary Synagogue Music 

in America Herbert Fromm 3 

Gershon SIROTA An Appreciation Issachar Fater 16 

"ROCK"ING the Temple David J. Putterman 22 

Kingsley: A New Sound in the 

Results of a Commissioning Project: 
"kochve voker — morning stars" 

Saul Me/sefs 25 

Pinchas Spiro 3 1 


Music Section 

A Frag men I From the Musical Repertoire 
of the Eighteenth Century Amsterdam 
Jewish Portuguese Community 

Record Review 

Lazar Weiner Songs 

FROM Our Readers 


Morton Kula 




November 1969/Kislev 5730 

Published by Can tors Assembly 

editor : Morton Shames 

managing editor i Samuel Rosenbaum 

editorial board: Baruch J. Cohon, Michal Hammerman, Gerald H. 
Hanig, Arthur Koret, Morris Levinson, David J. Putterman, Moses 
J. Silverman, George Wagner, Max Wohlberg, Arthur Yolkoff. 
associate members: Arthur Yolkoff, Chairman; Harold Brindell, 
Saul Z. Hammerman, Louis Klein, Abraham B. Shapiro, Gregor 
Shelkan, Harry Weinberg. 

officers of the cantors assembly: David J. Leon, President; 
Morris Schorr, Vice President; Yehudah Mandel, Treasurer; Solomon 
Mendelson, Secretary; Samuel Rosenbaum, Executive Vice President. 

journal of synagogue music is a quarterly publication. The sub- 
scription fee is $5.00 per year; $10.00 per year for patrons. Second- 
class postage paid at New York, New York. All articles, commun- 
ications and subscriptions should be addressed to Journal of 
Synagogue Music, Cantors Assembly, 150 Fifth Avenue, Nezu York 

Copyright ® 1969, Cantors Assembly 



The history of Hebrew sacred music goes back to the time of 
King David, some 3000 years ago. Biblical sources tell us of a 
splendid musical pageant performed by a multitude of singers and 
instrumentalists, 'and we need only turn to the one hundred and 
fiftieth Psalm to find within a few lines of poetry a flash of those 
early rites transmitted through the haze of centuries. 

The public reading of the Bible, as introduced by Ezra after the 
Babylonian captivity in the 5th century B.C., was performed as a 
cantillation, a chanting of the text. This cantillation of the Bible has 
been preserved throughout the ages and its ancient Oriental origin 
can still be recognized. 

After the destruction of the second Temple in the year 70 A.D. 
the remnants of the J ewish people were scattered all over the Roman 
Empire. The musical tradition was preserved from mouth to mouth 
but the rabbis forbade all instrumental music for worship as a sign 
of mourning for the loss of the sanctuary in Jerusalem. Hebrew 
music was reduced to unaccompanied unison singing. 

With the development of worship as a daily ritual there arose 
the need for a man who would stand before the congregation, recite 
the prayers and chant the Bible. This office, in contrast to the 
Temple in J erusalem where only the priests and Levites took an 
active part in the Service, was occupied by a layman chosen by the 
congregation and called Shdiah Tzibbur, the messenger of the con- 
gregation. As music and prayers grew more complex the need for 
a professional precentor was felt and thus, in the early middle ages, 
the office of the Hazzan, or Cantor, came into being. 

The music so far dealt with was strictly melodic and without 
any harmonic accompaniment. The first known attempt to introduce 
harmony into the music of the Synagogue was made in Italy by 
Salomone Rossi in the beginning of the 17th century. Rossi, court 
musician in Mantua and a composer of secular fame, aimed at a re- 
form of J ewish liturgical music by introducing harmony and counter- 
point, "the rules of musical art", as he called them. Although pro- 
tected by the famous and versatile Rabbi Leone de Modena who 
wrote a preface to Rossi's work (1622) the reform did not spread. 

Rossi's approach was completely European and certainly a great 
exception in his time. Most J ews continuing in the belief that their 
stay in exile was only temporary and that they would finally return 
to Zion instinctively preserved the Oriental elements in their music 

although yielding here and there to influences of the Western world. 
The French Revolution and the Emancipation, however, changed the 
outlook among less orthodox J ews and led to radical innovations in 

The Reform movement starting in the first half of the nine- 
teenth century set itself apart from the Orthodox Synagogue with 
the idea of remodeling J udaism according to modern needs. As far 
as music was concerned, an enrichment of means was the con- 
sequence; organ and mixed choir were introduced. While the unac- 
companied cantorial solos still preserved the ancient modes with 
their special flavor and leaning toward florid improvisation, the music 
for choir and organ was pressed into the mold of Western tradition. 
The free flow of the Hebrew language was hindered by 19th century 
conventions; musical forms built on regular periods of even numbered 
measures proved to be a rigid frame for the irregular meters of 
Hebrew texts. 

Two monumental works are the outstanding examples of this 
development. Shir Zion (Song of Zion) by Salomon Sulzer and 
Todah V'zimmh (Praise and Song) by Louis Lewandowski. Both 
men were deeply influenced by the German music of the 19th cen- 
tury. Their music is clean, concise, dignified, but rarely characteristic. 

In the beginning of its harmonic ventures Synagogue music 
walked on stilts. It was so with Rossi in the 17th century, with Sul- 
zer, Lewandowski and a host of other composers in the 19th century. 
In our own time new efforts have been made to arrive at a more 
idiomatic liturgical style and we have been witnessing a profound 
renewal of Synagogue music in America roughly beginning around 
the year 1930. 

The proposition that J ewish music, for the sake of purity, should 
offer nothing but unharmonized chants is the dream of theorists. If 
we want to face up to musical realities we must recognize the effects 
of a long J ewish history within the Western world. The interplay 
between the J ewish heritage and the achievements of Western music 
is what interests the contemporary J ewish composer. A style is 
emerging which blends ancient materials with the devices of modern 
music or else is freely creative by taking a general J ewish conscious- 
ness as point of departure. 

The contemporary trend may be summaried in this fashion: 

1. Return to the proper modes (certain motifs within a given 
scale) of the Ashkenazic tradition of Central and Eastern 

2. Inclusion of material from the Sephardic, that is, Spanish, 
Italian and Southern French, heritage. 

3. Utilization of the chants of Oriental communities made avail- 
able through the volumes of A. Z. Idelsohn. 

4. Exploration of harmonic and contrapuntal devices suitable 
for melodic material originally conceived without accom- 

5. Free invention of melodies in the spirit of authentic sources. 

6. Greater care in the understanding of Hebrew inflection and 

7. Creation of professional music departments in the syna- 
gogues capable of meeting the demands of this new music. 

The process of purification of synagogue music owes a debt to 
Lazare Saminsky. His compositions bear the stamp of honest be- 
ginnings: Simplicity, even starkness of texture, brevity of form and 
careful regard for liturgical usefulness. Nothing green seems to grow 
in Saminsky's music but we honor in it a sincere striving toward a 
clearly envisioned ideal of sacred expression. The following example 
is the opening of Saminsky's 92nd Psalm. See example No. l 

Joseph Achron, in his Friday Eve Service, excels by melodic 
invention of definitely J ewish flavor. His harmony, however, does not 
enhance the freshness of his melodic ideas. There is a groping for 
the right chords but seldom a truly convincing solution. With all 
that, Achron 's Service is the remarkable creation of an intense and 
searching mind. 

J acob Weinberg, influenced by the theories of J oseph Yasser, 
offered in his Friday Eve Service his best contribution. The work, 
loosely based on the pentatonic scale, is richly elaborated in texture 
as well as in the expansiveness of form. His Sabbath Morning Service 
which followed much later was conceived on an even larger scale but 
lacks the musical communication of the earlier work. 

A W. Binder became a major influence on the rejuvenation of 
Synagogue music in America. It was he who propagated in musical 
works as well as in his teaching the return to the best sources of 
J ewish tradition. His works are imbued with motifs from both prayer 
modes and biblical canti Nation, with an occasional leaning on Israeli 
folk music. His harmony, sometimes backward, sometimes experi- 
mental, does not always reach a sympathetic relationship with his 
melodic material. 

The work of Heinrich Schalit occupies a special place. His music, 
whether based on tradition or freely invented, bears invariably the 
stamp of a personal style. He probably was the first composier of 

consequence to use some of the Oriental chants from Idelsohn's com- 
pilation with exemplary results. The musical illustration taken from 
Schalit's Friday Evening Liturgy represents the opening of L'cha 
Dodi (Welcoming of the Sabbath Bride). It is based on Idelsohn's 
notation of an Oriental -Sephardic chant and shows the composer's 
original mind in the fresh diatonic harmony and rhythmic finesse 
resulting from the canonic approach to a model which spans no more 
than the interval of a diminished fifth. See example No. 2 

We have two Sabbath Eve Services by Frederick J acobi, the 
first, an a capella work, the second, with organ accompaniment. The 
earlier work offers much musical interest although the effort to find 
a J ewish idiom sometimes deteriorates into artificial devices, such 
as syncopations of more Scottish than J ewish provenance, cold, un- 
felt coloraturas, etc. The later work written shortly before the com- 
poser's death aims at a forced homophonic simplicity. Its harmonic 
staleness and constant repetition of phrases indicate a fatigue of the 
composer's creative powers. His Hebrew anthem Teyfen I'hakshiv 
(Turn to listen) after a poem by Saadia Gaon (882-942) may well 
be his best work for the Synagogue. There is an uncompromising 
starkness, economy of means, a compelling accord between melody 
and harmonic idiom and an altogether admirable concentration of 
the composer's musical resources. 

Lazar Weiner, the undisputed master of the secular Yiddish art 
song, is going different ways in his liturgical works which, in a larger 
context, may be seen as a continuation of what J oseph Achron had 
begun. Weiner's melody has the authentic ring of J ewish declamation 
and he is continuously searching for musical textures best fitted for 
his material. In his later works he has arrived at a freely dissonant 
and often elaborate harmonic scheme. 

Gershon Ephros, pupil of Idelsohn, professional cantor and com- 
piler of the indispensable Cantorial Anthology in five volumes, is a 
composer who has so far published two large scale works for the 
Synagogue, S'lichot (Midnight Penitential Service) and L'yon 
Hashabbat, a Sabbath Morning Service for use in the conservative 
Synagogue. A Friday Evening Service, at the time of this writing, is 
awaiting publication. Similar to the method of Ernest Bloch whole 
sectons of the liturgy are bound together in large movements whose 
individual pieces are connected by interludes. These interludes give 
the impression of afterthoughts and do not always come off success- 
fully. Ephros is one of the best representatives of those composers 
who lovingly nurture Nussach hatefillah, the traditional prayer 

modes. His work suffers from an undeviating density of polyphonic 

Isadore Freed added a special note to the music of the Syna- 
gogue, a natural grace and elegance which perhaps had not been 
heard since the time of Salomone Rossi. Having studied in France, 
Freed applied a subtle overlay of French harmony toj ewish material 
although he remained deeply concerned with traditional modes as 
shown in his valuable treatise on the subject. 

Max Helfman has his roots in the Polish-Russian traditian with 
its unrestrained emotional appeal and its flair for theatrical effects. 
His work Aron Hakodesh (The Holy Ark) accompaning the cere- 
mony of the scriptural reading exemplifies these traits most 

Hugo Chaim Adler was a cantor of distinctly creative gifts. His 
hallmark is a moderately contemporary polyphony set to the melodic 
material of the German, more specifically, the Southern German 

J ulius Chajes, best known for his secular J ewish music, has not 
given much to the Synagogue but his one slim volume has the dis- 
tinction of a clearly defined style. It is a stubborn diatonicism de- 
livered with the conviction of a firmly rooted musical philosophy. 

Herman Berlinski, in his Sabbath Eve Service Auodat Shabbat, 
appears wholeheartedly committed to the task of shaping a speci- 
fically J ewish melos. It is an ambitious work carried out with ex- 
cellent workmanship but a predilection for heavy structures often 
obscures the eloquence of melodic statements. 

Reuven Kosakoffs Lichvod Shabbat shows the composer in an 
emphatic attempt to reconcile old and new ways which leads to 
occasional incongruities. But there are successful solutions such as 
the antiphonal 98th Psalm, an imaginative chaconne for Hashkiuenu 
and variations on a good A don Olam tune. 

Having dealt so far with works of practical dimensions a few 
words must be said about the Sabbath Morning Services by Ernest 
Bloch and Darius Milhaud. Bloch's Service written for chorus, bari- 
tone cantor and large orchestra oversteps by far the limits set by the 
ordinary demands of the liturgy which is not a fault in the case of 
so precious a gift. Bloch approaches the text in the fervent and per- 
sonal way of a man deeply stirred by his J ewish experience and the 
symbolism of an ancient faith. It is the "harsh and haughty accents 
of the Hebrew tongue" which we hear in Bloch's music. 

Darius Milhaud's "Service Sacre" is not of the same stature as 
Bloch's work although more liturgical in its general attitude. Milhaud 

wins new honors for the melodic lilt of the Southern French tradition 
which he dyes in the colors of his often cliche-ridden polytonal 
harmony. A perfectly delightful number is to be found in the appen- 
dix which contains pieces for the Sabbath Eve Service. It is L'Sha 
Dodi which in spite of its easy-going and even mechanical form 
appears utterly disarming by its feminine grace. 

As a general observation, let me say here that outsiders, that is, 
composers who are not intimately connected with the Synagogue 
and whose relationship with liturgical music results from no more 
than an occasional commission rarely find the right tone and pro- 

This is not saying anything against the possibility of their 
producing valuable music, it only points up the fact that the pre- 
carious balance between beauty and usefulness required by the 
liturgy can, as a rule, not be achieved by induced concentration on 
the subject. I know very well that readers with a psychological 
vocabulary will detect in this statement "guild feelings" on my part 
but I think that a perusal of the available literature will prove my 

Of the composers discussed so far, nine are not alive anymore: 
Achron, HugoAdler, Binder, Bloch, Freed, Helfman, J acobi, Samin- 
sky and Weinberg. The others are either middle aged or older men. 
Few composers of the younger generation have shown a more than 
passing interest in the music of the Synagogue. It is rare in our day 
that a young musician is satisfied with the anonymity he is sure to 
find in the dimly lit places of the nation's musical life. But I will 
name three who have already distinguished themselves in the field. 

Samuel Adler, son of the cantor-composer mentioned above, has 
contributed several complete Services as well as a number of anthems 
and responses. His Shir Chadash (A New Song) for cantor, three 
part choir and organ, and Shiru Ladonai (Sing unto the Lord) for 
solo voice and organ, were mainly created in answer to practical 
needs but offer in some instances excellent examples of Gebrauchs- 
musik on a high level. I am particularly referring to Ucha Dodi, 
Veshamru 1 1 1 and Yismechu I in Shir Chadash, and Ucha Dodi and 
Barechu (Call to Worship) in the solo Service. Adler's most serious 
effort is a Sabbath Service Be-Shaarey Tefila (Within the Gates of 
Prayer), for cantor, mixed choir and organ. The style is freely poly- 
phonic in modal tonalities and characterized by sudden shifts of the 
tonal center. The following example from the Kedusha (Sanctifi ca- 
tion) for the Sabbath Morning Service may serve as a good sample 
of the composer's skill and imagination. See example No. 3 

Charles Davidson, cantor in a conservative synagogue, must be 
counted among those cantors who have achieved a thorough pro- 
fessionalism as composer. He is a versatile musician writing disson- 
nat harmony ('The Earth is the Lord's"), traditional music of East 
European extraction, brightened by cautiously enriched harmony 
("Hashkivenu"), jazz and simple accompaniments to folk tunes 

I am not convinced when he mixes styles in one and the same 
work, as in 'The Earth is the Lord's", where we get a passage like 
this. (See example No. 4) 
this. See example No. 4 
as against a conventional ending of this kind: See example No. 5 

A choral number from Davidson's "Dialogue with Destiny", 
called "Vayaar V'hine Hasneh" strikes me, musically, as a fully 
realized composition, even if the music is not in agreement with the 
miraculous scene of the burning bush. 

Here, a simple, fairly diatonic vocal line is set against a piano 
accompaniment of greatly refined rhythm; the rhythmic element 
appears as the contemporary feature of an otherwise traditional 
composition. Since Davidson's sensitivity to rhythmical events seems 
more highly developed than his ear for the immovable rightness of 
dissonant harmony, a satisfying work emerges. 

Yehudi Wyner has not yet written in quantity for the Synagogue 
but his two works, A Friday Evening Service and a Torah Service for 
Sabbath Morning, are original and challenging enough to warrant 
some detailed remarks. Of the two works, the shorter Torah Service, 
scored for cantor, mixed choir, two trumpets, one horn, one trombone 
and string bass, is more unified stylistically although its predomin- 
ant chromatic complexity may be less idiomatic for the Synagogue. 
The earlier work requiring cantor, mixed choir and organ is preceded 
by a foreword in which the composer states some of his aims. "I 
tried to create an expression of directness and intimacy, relevant to 
the modest, undramatic conduct of worship in the traditional syna- 
gogue", and further "traditional fragments have been used in a 
very free way, but the traditionalism of the Service stems more from 
absorbed experience than applied method". 

The first statement referring to the intimacy of the Service is 
borne out by the work but it is also apologetic in the sense that 
Wyner is aware of his limitations. At moments when the text de- 
mands drama such as in Hashkivenu ("remove from us every enemy, 
pestilence, sword, famine and sorrow"), the music offers no more 
than primitive shouts in octaves. Another instance: The tumultu- 


ous verses of Psalm 96 ("let the sea roar and the fulness thereof, 
let the fields exult and all that is therein; then shall all the trees 
of the wood sing for joy") are rendered in a stationary, soft repeti- 
tion of a short phrase. This might be interpreted as an expression 
of awe but it is hardly a musical equivalent of the unrestrained 
fervor of the text. 

The remark about the use of tradition gives the key to Wyner's 
approach. The Service is indeed a transformation of traditional 
motifs from strict adherence to creative remodeling. The most con- 
spicuous motif occurring again and again is the Tipcha motif, one 
of the 28 taamey han'ginot (neumes) used for the chanting of the 
scriptures. See example No. 5A 

Idelsohn's collection of the chants of Oriental Jewish communities 
is used in Oleynu and in the Benediction. The problem of an organ 
accompaniment for Oleynu is solved delicately by one sustained 
chord which represents in a vertical column the notes of the melody. 
The reason why, after this, the Vaanachnu section is kept in an 
unaaccompanied unison does not become clear. 

The short organ pieces seem to me the most problematical part 
of the Service. The composer is fully conscious of it when he says in 
the preface: 'The organ pieces are clearly different from the rest of 
the music. They should be registered and paced to give the illusion 
of being in a world apart." This certainly is true, the organ pieces 
are not integrated and do stand by themselves, locked out, strange 
and shivering. I am puzzled why this should be so and my vague 
impression is that Wyner, for some reason or other, does not like the 
organ for J ewish worship and allows this feeling to come to the 
surface. Significantly, this problem does not arise in theTorah Service 
which is not accompanied by organ but by five instruments. 

The separateness of the organ, however, is not observed with 
absolute strictness. There are quite a few places where the world or 
organ music intrudes into the vocal writing, not as subservient ac- 
companiment but in independent preludes and interludes. Then we 
get a clash of styles as in this example where a finely balanced modal 
unison passage is followed by an organ interlude which is incompre- 
• hensible in this context. See example No. 6 

The problem of organ in juxtaposition with the choir is over- 
come with conspicuous success in L'cha Dodi where a complete 
integration is achieved. A piece of this kind could serve as a model 
for the composer's work in the future. 

I n spite of all these exceptions I wish to emphasize that Wyner's 
work is an important contribution, not only by virtue of its genuine 


and unmistakable J ewish flavor but also by the contemporary, ur- 
bane treatment given to the material by a cultivated and uncon- 
ventional musician. Once all elements of the composer's style have 
been welded into a complete union the music of the Synagogue may 
expect to be enriched by fresh and enduring works. 

A word must be said about the recent rash of jazz and rock 
services. These attempts, designed to bring young people in contact 
with synagogue music, are still curiosities but will probably be in 
demand for some ti me to come. 

The simplistic level of these services cannot satisfy an ear 
steeped in the music of Bach or Bloch. I, by upbringing and inclina- 
tion, must confess that I cannot find a personal relationship to jazz 
and rock. The fault may lie on my side but of one thing I am sure: 
If the young people want to "do their own thing" they should do it 
all the way and set to work writing new prayer texts. They must 
not fall back on the words of the traditional prayer book which can 
not be forced into the same yoke with the kind of music the young 
generation prefers. If they succeed in matching words and music 
something might result that can at least claim stylistic unity, what- 
ever its intrinsic value may be. 

The printed statement of the composer of a rock service to the 
effect that church music, through the influence of jazz and rock, is 
now entering its greatest period, is utter nonsense, no matter from 
what angle you look at it. 

In conclusion I would like to touch upon an uncomfortable 
question brought about by the title of this article which uses the 
term "contemporary". Naturally, in a literal sense, all music written 
by contemporary composers is contemporary music. Coming to the 
point I want to make we should phrase the question this way: How 
contemporary, meaning here, how advanced, how modern, can Syna- 
gogue music, or, for that matter, Church music be? 

The works of the younger composers mentioned above as well 
as my own contributions are surely progressive in comparison to what 
has gone before. Although often harshly dissonant, they are still 
within the bounds of tonality, and not committed to the school of 
atonal writing. 

I do not believe that it is a matter of practical considerations 
which detains composers from writing atonal music for the Syna- 
gogue. There seems to be a natural, probably even a historical, in- 
stinct at work which recognizes that only a style that has already 
gained general acceptance will be possible in a house of worship. 

Much of the progressive, though tonal, music written today for 


the Synagogue must still wait its turn. The mills grind slowly and it 
cannot be foretold if and when atonal music will be admitted. Ob- 
servers with a philosophical turn of mind might even see a connec- 
tion between the "God is dead" and 'Tonality is dead" slogans. Be 
that as it may, the fact is that even a neo-classical work like Stra- 
vinsky's Mass, written nearly 20 years ago, has not yet taken root 
in the Catholic Church where it belongs, and to this day has re- 
mained a concert work. Shoenberg's atonal Psalm 130, dating from 
the year 1950, was written in Hebrew and meant for the Synagogue. 
It may be found in an Anthology of Jewish Music but, to my 
knowledge, has not yet had a hearing within the walls of a sanctuary. 
Thus, the term "contemporary", as used for this essay, means 
"progressive" in the relative and necessary conservative, sense of 
Church history, and not what currently goes as the last or even the 
second last cry. 

Example 1 




j m r 


AlTt Jai^ipj^ 

■^r- "'- 



h*.w<*> Stkat 

Example 3 


S<X^ut_f Adj*. 


i«^> jl+c 

ts.- >' 

Hoc v<»~ dor k«l-E»_ !w- y«S, 

Example 4 

=*i= f 

C^ia-r'** .Ptwi'cf^oiu 

Example 5 

Example *>a 

£/>*<'** QcxvtJsen. 

t ) i | K i f g 



Example 6 

^ I s 

Mofi v-kt ohT ' -|«c- n«vy, 


ox^- +»(.♦. »«t fcl *,,|f_ J ft . s^ 


j, jj, p ^ : I ^ 


GERSHON SIROTA: issachar fater 


In the history of music one finds, from time to time, person- 
alities who capture the imagination, affection and respect of the 
entire world with their extraordinary artistic attainments. Like 
meteors these personalities light up the scene around them with a 
blazing, dazzling light. This is especially true of interpreters of 
music: singers, instrumentalists and conductors, who, during their 
life-time become living legends. Among this category of extraordin- 
ary talents were such musical figures as Paganini (1782-1840), 
probably the greatest violin virtuoso of all time; Battistini (1857- 
1928) the greatest operatic dramatic-baritone of his time; the world 
renown tenor, Enrico Caruso (1882-1947). These and others like 
them were, during their life-time, and remain to this day unsolved 
riddles in the cultural history of man. 

Among hazzanim the only man who earned a similar niche for 
himself was Gershon Sirota (1887(?)-1943). He was blessed with a 
majestic dramatic tenor voice, a naturally elegant and pliable color- 
atura that produced trills, melismas and other vocal ornamentation 
with ease and grace. These techniques which require years of frus- 
trating labor and practice of others were only a part of Sirota's 
God-given talent. He was also blessed with an innate musicianship 
which helped him to grasp easily the basic crafts of the musician; 
and above all the wit an intelligence which permitted him to use 
these gifts wisely and for their greatest effect. All of these qualities 
made Gershon Sirota the hazzan of his generation and perhaps of 
all time. One or two of these qualities would be enough to produce 
a fine singer, but a man who possessed them all in such richness 
was bound to be an unusual talent. 

There were many world famous hazzanim who reached the 
realm of greatness via one or another special talent. Some achieved 

This biographical sketch is one of many in a new book by Issachar Fater, 
"Yiddishe Muzik in P oil en Tz' vish' n Beide Velt Milchomes, 1918-1939", pub- 
lished last month in Israel with the assistance of the Cantors Assembly. 

It is a comprehensive record of the hazzanic. folk, theater, classical and 
popular music of the J ews of the period between the two World Wars and 
will contain 24 detailed monographs on the outstanding musicians of that era, 
400 short biographical sketches of lesser-known musicians, over 100 pictures 
and documents and an entire section of musical examples and illustrations. 

* The translation from the Yiddish is by Samuel Rosenbaum. 


fame with the sweetness of the voice. Their chief talent lay in the 
hypnotic magic with which the voice was able to stir the soul of 
the listener. Often, the effect was greater on the soul than on the 
ear. Their singing exuded a sense of peace and faith which evoked 
a mood of prayerful ness and repentance in the worshipper. 

There were other hazzanic giants who capitalized on a poor 
voice and developed a pleading, tearful style of prayer chant whose 
overriding impact was that of a child pleading before his father. 
Tearfully, they implored the Almighty to open the gates of heaven 
and accept their prayers in behalf of the congregation. Their style 
was quiet and humble, prostrating themselves in the manner of 
Hinneni He-ani Mimaas, "Behold, I am poor in deeds." 

There were still others who owed their success to the power 
of their voices. Of fiery temperament these men produced a passion- 
ate outpouring of religious ecstacy in the manner of B'kol shofar 
gadol, "the sound of the Great Shofar." This was usually coupled 
with the typically Yiddish sigh of protest and pain, the krechts, 
which never failed to evoke tears from the worshippers. These haz- 
zanic virtuosi were renowned and acclaimed by J ews the world over. 
Yossele Rosenblatt (1880-1933), Mordecai Hershman (1886-1943) 
and the recently deceased Moshe Koussevitsky (1899-1965) were 
of this type; but none of these could compare with Gershon Sirota. 
While he was yet alive he had already been crowned with such titles 
as "King of the Hazzanim, " 'The J ewish Caruso" and his name 
was spoken with the greatest reverence and affection by the great 
J ewish masses and by many non-J ews, as well. He was the epitome 
of the hazzan-virtuoso in the finest sense of the word. 

His voice, from the lowest register through the upper tenor 
range was uniformly brilliant. There was no wobble nor were there 
any weak spots in any particular section of his magnificent 20 tone 
range. The voice was homogenous throughout. The lower tones, as 
the upper tones, were always brilliant and powerful, and when he 
maneuvered in the upper reaches of his range, the pitch and into- 
nation were secure and always on target. At times, when Sirota 
would move to the upper range, the listeners were certain that the 
pinnacle had been reached. Then he would take everyone by sur- 
prise and move from that seeming high-point to new heights, always 
securely, never uncomfortable and never causing discomfort or doubt 
in the listener. 

This was Sirota in improvisation. The high-C held no peril for 
him. He would reach it and hold it for as long as it suited his effect. 
Generally, he would move in the range of the high-A or B, leaving 


himself plenty of room to astound the congregation with a climax 
of a C or a D. Such flashing brilliance never failed to draw tears of 
approval and wonder from those who heard him. 

But Sirota did not content himself only with his unusual range 
and power. Bare, indeed, is the voice that has both strength and the 
agility and grace to produce an evenly articulated melismatic color- 
atura. But Sirota came by this technique naturally. He moved up 
and down his great span of voice effortlessly. Now he was in the 
stratosphere, flying like an eagle, his voice bristling with thunder 
and lightning-bolts and then, in a flash, he was down in the nether 
regions, dark, gloomy, sighing and pleading. His tones were always 
warm, caressing and sensual. He could be, in turn, soft and placat- 
ing, then stern and demanding, and in an instant, uplifting and 
inspiring. He seemed to have a bottomless well of melody which 
evoked yearning and dreams. Then there were chimes of brilliant 
clusters of tones that hypnotized one with a sense of dedication-to- 
the-death to the cause of God and I srael . 

Sirota's voice and coloratura were in their own way a reflection 
of the fate of the J ewish people and in the course of his impro- 
visations it would happen that tones would remain suspended in 
mid-air seemingly determined to remain vibrating until by sheer 
will-power they would break through the clouds which separate 
man from his Creator. It was at such times that Sirota would refuse 
to succumb to the mortal failings of breath and energy. Stubbornly, 
the tones hung thereuntil Sirota was satisfied that he had indeed 
bean victorious and that his prayers had reached their intended 

I remember once when my father, of blessed memory, and I 
paid a visit to the home of Eizenstadt, the choir director. After some 
time he beckoned us to accompany him to Sirota's synagogue. We 
entered through a back door. There, high above us, on the pulpit was 
Sirota absorbed in vocalizing. He was unaware of our presence and 
allowed the full, range of his voice to flow. Little by little he warmed 
up to his practice. The voice was now the glorious instrument which 
we knew so well. For a moment it seemed that the entire synagogue 
had been ensnared in a single clap of thunder. Then, changing again, 
Sirota's tones evoked memories of artillery fire. The windows rattled 
in their casements, the doors moved to and fro as the waves of 
Sirota's voice impinged on them and it seemed to us that the entire 
building shuddered. As suddenly as it had errupted, the storm sub- 
sided. In its place came a stream of soft soul-searching pathos, 


delicate falsetto tremolos and gossamer-spun piano tones strung out 
one after another like pearls. 

In addition to the two great gifts with which nature had blessed 
him, voice and coloratura, Sirota was steeped in the traditional 
nushaot hatefillah, prayer modes. He always kept in mind that he 
was more than a singer, he was a sheliah tzibbur, the emissary of 
the congregation before the Almighty, a baal tefillah, a master of 
prayer. He was always completely aware of the inner meaning of 
the texts of the liturgy. His chants were in the form of a dialogue 
between himself and God. He would begin a recitative softly, the way 
one begins to tell a story, as though he hoped he could make his 
point with the Almighty gently without undue histrionics. But, as 
he proceeded, his pleas became more urgent, more demanding. As 
the prayer moved along to its climax, Sirota, sensing that perhaps 
it had not been accepted by the Almighty, began to pour truly 
heroic efforts into the breech. And when one heard him at such 
moments of climactic appeal one could understand the full meaning 
of the Bratslaver Rebbe when he said, "Song breaks down walls." 

In his volume, "Toldot HaNeginah veheHazzanut BeYisrael", 
the "History of Music and Hazzanut in Israel" Dr. Hayim Harris, 
reports that the famous composer-conductor Leo Low, who was 
Si rota's choir-director for twelve years in Warsaw, recalled that one 
year, on Rosh Hashanah, Si rota's treatment of Ata Nigleta evoked 
such visions of Sinai aflame that the congregation was literally 
enveloped in such a fear as might well have enveloped those who 
actually had stood at the foot of the mountain to receive the Torah. 
Dr. Harris reports further that the late Hazzan Yehoshua Weisser 
told him that when he looked at Sirota after he had finished the 
Ata Nigleta he was frightened at his appearance. He could hardly 
recognize the man. He had become a roaring lion. He approached 
the chanting of two other well-known compositions in a similar state 
of feverish inspiration, Adonai, Adonai by A. M. Bernstein and 
R'tzeh by Sclossberg. 

We come now to still another aspect of Si rota's talent, his pro- 
fessionalisn and restraint when he sang with a choir. One might 
think Sirota's uniquely gifted personality and independant spirit 
might have led him to be demanding and arbitrary, but, to his 
credit it must be recorded that he was at all times a cooperative 
soloist, accepting direction without a show of temperament. When 
he appeared with choir it was always in the role of a participant, 
never as a virtoso soloist. Eizenstadt confided in me that in his 
opinion Sirota was the most cooperative and the most pliant hazzan 


of all with whom he had worked in Warsaw. He was always receptive 
to the needs of the choir, took direction and suggestions without 

Details of Sirota's life are hard to come by. According to Elijah 
Zaludkovsky's Hazzanim Lexicon, Sirota "commenced his hazzanic 
career in one of the better synagogues in Odessa. He moved from 
there to Vilna where he served as the hazzan of that city's Shtot- 
Shul for eight years. The synagogue in which he served was a tra- 
ditional one in its ritual practices although its adherents were 
sympathetic to the mood of enlightenment which at that time had 
introduced a liberalizing effect on Jewish life in Eastern Europe. 
Sirota, with the help of Leo Low, helped to raise the musical stand- 
ards of the congregation to a new, high level of musical profes- 
sionalism and taste without departing from the traditional melos 
of synagogue tradition. One of the great moments of Si rota's tenure 
in Vilna was the grand concert of J ewish music which he gave, to- 
gether with a massive choir, in the year 1902. Another, was the 
great part which he played in the reception given to Theodore Herzl 
by the J ewish community of Vilna on the occasion of his visit in 

Sirota's popularity grew daily. His success did not swerve him 
from his determination to continue to study, to grow and to improve. 
Finally, in 1908, he was invited to come to Warsaw where he became 
the prestigeous Oberkantor of the Deitcher Synagogue on Tlamacke 
Street. From there his fame spread all over the world. 

In 1912, Sirota, together with Leo Low, came to America for 
a series of concerts. Leo Low had come with Sirota to Warsaw to 
take the post of Choir Director and was by that time Sirota's 
closest friend and associate. The concerts were highly successful and 
encouraged them both. The J ews of New York idolized Sirota. The 
first concert in that city took place in Carnegie Hall on February 
14th. The following day the "WAHRHEIT" reported: 

"Carnegie Hall was packed from top to bottom. The crowds 
which remained outside were even greater; men and women, young 
and old who tried without success to get in to hear the concert by 
this great tenor and the choir under the direction of Herr Low. New 
York has never witnessed such a scene. The police had their hands 
full in keeping order on the street. Among the gentile members of 
the audience were such personalities as Baron Shlimenbach, the 
Russian Consul -General, State Senator Tom Sullivan, the Rev. Dr. 
Parkhurst and Herman Rider of the "CITY-NEWS." Also present 


has written Three Sacred Songs for solo, with cello and piano, and 
is working on wedding music for Hazzan Samuel Rosenbaum in 
Rochester. Additional performances of "Sabbath for Today," besides 
the Temple on the Heights in Cleveland and Temple Sharey Tefilo 
in East Orange, N.J ., have been given at the University of J udaism 
and Temple Sinai in Los Angeles, Ahavas Achim in Atlanta, Ga., 
Temple Beth El in Rochester, N.Y., and the Hebrew College in 

Written originally for the Reform liturgy, "Sabbath for Today" 
is scored for cantor, mixed choir, organ, and an instrumental en- 
semble consisting of piano, percussion instruments, guitar, bass, and 
Moog Synthesizer. The readings were selected by Rabbi Charles 
Annes, who commissioned the work for his congregation, Temple 
Sharey Tefilo, East Orange, N.J ., where the service was originally 

A close scrutiny of the work reveals that the music is basically 
simple in its melodic and rhythmic structure, and its harmonic 
patterns are easy to follow. The melodies are sung in unison or two- 
part harmony, with occasional three-part harmony, and the total 
effect is often so overpowering that it carries the listener along to 
the heights of religious fervor. It is a contemporary type of sacred 
service which combines unusual electronic sounds with haunting 
themes of traditional Hebrew music. 

Some of the highlights of the service include a very exciting 
"Shma — Hear Israel," which is sung in English in a virile 
rhythmic pattern of great strength and intensity. There is an ex- 
cellent setting of the "Mi Chomocho" which contains a fine solo 
for the cantor. The "Kiddush" is very joyous and rhythmic, entirely 
different from what we are normally accustomed to hearing. But as 
the composer stated, 'The Kiddush is a joyous moment in the 
service, and why should it not be reflected so in the music?' The 
"Bayom Hahu" is almost hypnotic as we listen to the melodic line 
sung anti phonal ly between the cantor and choir at what appears like 
lightning speed. The middle section calls for improvisation by the 
instruments, which reach a furious peak of excitement. Generally 
speaking, the accompaniment throughout is more involved rhythmi- 
cally and harmonically than the vocal lines. 

Worthy of particular note is the lovely "May the Words." This 
is a setting of unusual beauty whose sustained melody seems to 
float out over the subtle rhythmic accompaniment. While one might 
think he detects a trace of Hollywood-ism in it, it is nevertheless as 
beautiful and effective a setting as anyone would want to hear. 


The words "my Rock and my Redeemer" are exquisitely expressive, 
and there is an unforgettable moment as the soprano sings a closing 
"Amen" high in the voice over the sustained choral ending. 

The "Mourner's Kaddish" is very impressive. Awesome and 
mysterious, it seems to capture the sanctity of the words. It is a 
simultaneous recital of the prayer by two voices, the Rabbi and the 
narrator, the former in Hebrew, the latter in English, juxtaposed 
over an accompaniment of mysterious sounds emanating from the 
electronic tape. The effect is startling and highly dramatic. And al- 
though the Hebrew text is known to everyone, the English trans- 
lation serves to illumine more vividly the meaning of the Kaddish. 

The final hymn, called 'The World is Rolling On," is a ballad- 
type setting for unison voices with choral accompaniment, in solid 
folk-rock beat, whose melody and text truly "say it like it is." Its 
message has universal implications. 

The fact of the matter is that this service has much to say, 
plus a novel way of saying it. Although written for the Reform 
liturgy, it can easily be adapted to the conservative synagogue. One 
may hesitate to present this work as an on-going Friday Eve service, 
but portions of it can certainly be incorporated into the traditional 
service, using organ accompaniment. For concert purposes it is in- 
fallible, because it will have much appeal to musicians, hazzanim, 
and especially audiences — young as well as old. 

In reflecting upon Kingsley's music, one is reminded of the 
remarks of Igor Stravinsky in his "Poetics of Music," where he 
writes: "What is called the style of an epoch results from the com- 
bination of individual styles, a combination which is dominated by 
the methods of the composers who have exerted a preponderant in- 
fluence on their time. We can notice, going back to the example 
of Mozart and Haydn, that they benefited from the same culture, 
drew on the same sources, and borrowed each other's discoveries. 
Each of them, however, works a miracle all his own. One may say 
that the masters, who in all their greatness surpass the generality 
of their contemporaries, send out the rays of their genius will be- 
yond their own day. In this day they appear as powerful signal 
fires — as beacons, to use Baudelaire's expression — by whose light 
and warmth is developed a sum of tendencies that will be shared 
by most of their successors and that contributes to form the parcel 
of traditions that make up a culture. 




"Kochve Voker" is an Sabbath Morning Service for Cantor and 
Three-Part Youth Choir by Max Wohlberg, Commissioned by Beth 
El Congregation of Akron, Ohio and published by Transcontinental 
Music Publications, New York. 

The Musical Score: 

Those who believe that in order for a contemporary composition 
to be meaningful and satisfying, it must be predominently atonal, 
vague, harsh and dissonant, will find in Max Wohl berg's first major 
choral work, "Kochve Voker", the following faults: there is a solid 
feeling of tonality throughout; the modulations are natural and 
smooth; it is delightfully melodious, and the variety of harmonic 
treatments are mostly traditional and extremely pleasing to the 
ear. Clearly, "Kochve Voker" is not a trail-blazer in terms of modern 
contemporary composition, as some understand it, but I doubt that 
it was intended as such. 

From a different point of view, however, "Kochve Voker" is sure 
to stand out as an important original contribution to the music of 
the synagogue. It contains qualities that set it up in a class all by 
itself. It is indeed an ideal and a model for others to follow. To 
understand the full significance of Wohl berg's new work, we must 
first try to reconstruct and understand the circumstances that 
motivated its writing. 

Hazzan J erome Kopmar commissioned Wolhberg, his former 
instructor in Hazzanut at the Cantor's Institute, to write a Sabbath 
morning service for his J unior Choral Society. We can assume that 
the composer considered the challenges as well as the pitfalls that 
are inherent in writing a musical work for children's voices before 
accepting the commission. He must have came to grips with the all- 
important fundamental question: 'Why another musical service?" 
Merely to add to the quantity of music available isn't the answer. 
We bear in mind that Wohlberg is primarily a practicing hazzan, a 
musicologist and a pedagogue. From the results, it is apparent that 
he regarded his commission as an educational opportunity of the 
highest order. It is a well-known fact that, by and large, J unior 
Choirs have not been successful in pleading effectively the case of 
their rightful place within the 'framework of the regular Hebrew 
School curriculum. In most of our congregational schools, they are 


tolerated merely as a pleasant novelty. Most of the educators in 
charge have failed to realize the tremendous potential benefits that 
such a project can give its participants in terms of engaging in an 
enjoyable activity (in itself a rarity in Hebrew School); acquiring a 
worthwhile repertoire of prayers and sacred songs that will remain 
with the children long after all the other facts and figures which they 
have learned have been forgotten; and most important, creating 
strong emotional bonds between the children and their J ewish herit- 
age. Wohlberg had this in mind when he planned his service. The 
task at hand was to write a service that would clearly demonstrate 
the potential educational values of youth choirs. He came up with 
an original and brilliant idea. He conceived his service as a condensed 
course in J ewish music. He constructed it in such a manner, that, 
upon learning it, every member of the choir will possess a funda- 
mental understanding of the elements that makefor authenticj ewish 
music. In the hands of a less articulate composer, such an ambitious 
undertaking might have been a trite, pragmatic conglomeration of 
unrelated elements. In Wohlberg's sure hand, the work turned out 
to be a gem of immaculate good taste — a beautiful mosaic where all 
the contrasting elements hold together as a homogeneous whole. 
"Kochve Voker" is the dream-come-true of any youth choir director 
who has ever searched in vain for a suitable work. 

The theme with which Wohlberg starts and ends the service 
is pentatonic. It is the nucleus of the entire work, appearing in one 
form or another. Musicologists are in agreement that the pentatonic 
mode is the oldest and most authentic of all the surviving J ewish 
modes. References to this mode are found in the writings of Clement 
of Alexandria and Plutarch, and the weekday Avot is based on it. 
I n a sense, it is the basis of much of the other authentic remnants of 
our musical heritage, including the cantillations of the Bible. This 
is the core of Woh I berg's service, and is there a better way to in- 
troduce children to the roots of their musical heritage" I n Wohlberg's 
masterful and inspired hand, this ancient theme, harmonized in open 
fourths and fifths comes to life, sounding majestically ancient and 
at the same time vigorously fresh and up to date. 

The second element around which the service revolves is the 
modern Israeli idiom. On the one hand the most ancient and on the 
other the most new and virile, and yet how wonderfully compatible 
they are! One hardly feels the transition from one to another. Wohl- 
berg has observed that the miraculous rebirth of the State of Israel 
must have a strong impact on contemporary composers and must be 
reflected in their works. In "Kochve Voker", Wohlberg proves that 


he practices what he preaches. His intentions are clearly indicated 
by his use of the Israeli theme on such phrases as Ki Mitziyon Tetze 
Torah and on Hashivenu — "Return us unto Thee, Lord, and we 
shall return. Renew our days as of old." 

In addition to the pentatonic scale and Israeli musical themes 
which cement the entire work, there are many other important 
J ewish music elements in the service. The canti Nations are presented 
in a capsule form of the Torah reading. First, we hear the traditional 
melody of the Torah blessing in the text of Baruch Shenatan Torah. 
Next, we have the Torah canti Nations for the text of Uv'nucho 
Yomar. Finally, we have the Haftarah cantillations in Ki Lekach 
Tov. The pentatonic theme which rounds up the canti Nation section 
clearly demonstrates their common source. 

The old-fashioned synagogue style of composition is represented 
only in parts of the musaf k'dushah. It is a refined distillation of the 
old-time nusach that retains its warmth and nostalgic feeling. The 
pentatonic theme manages to assert its presence here, too. Particu- 
larly worthy of mention is the delightful tune of Hu Elohenu. It is 
sure to capture the hearts of the young singers and the adult listeners 

The hassidic idiom, a vital part of our musical legacy, comes to 
life in the vibrant syncopated rhythms of Yism'chu. The Sephardic 
tradition is represented in the noble and graceful lines of En 
K elohenu. (Anyone who has ever considered replacing the customary 
"traditional" Germanic tune should try this one!") 

Although the service was written specifically for children's 
voices, (talented children, we may add), it is not a children's service 
in the limiting sense of that category. The composer did not com- 
promise his music for the sake of simplifications. The interpretation 
of the text is fully adult, and there are many complex and sophis- 
ticated forms and ideas to satisfy and indeed delight the most 
enlightened adults. A considerable part of the service is assigned to 
the cantor-soloist. It is elaborate but it does not cater to vocal 
virtuosity for its own sake. In fact, its range makes it accessible to 
both tenors and baritones. Two of Wolhberg's most outstanding 
virtues as a composer are his ability to spin lovely melodies, and his 
knowledge of modulation. In "Kochve Voker" he makes excellent 
use of both. In the choral parts, the cantus firmus is assigned mostly 
to the upper voice, but there is ample interest and melody in the 
other two voices as well. This is as it should be, since youth choirs 
learn their parts mostly by rote. The harmonic treatments are almost 
exclusively of the polyphonic or horizontal variety. Only in a few 


instances does the choir sing in vertical blocks. Texts such as V'kara 
Zeh El Zeh and M'shar'tav Sho'alim Zeh Lazeh are interpreted 
graphically by a series of echo-like imitations. In Hodo Al Eretz, 
we are treated to a short, beautiful three-part fugue. My favorite 
selection is Torat Adonai T'mimah, an incidental selection (or corn- 
position) which was added to the service for concert purposes to 
suggest theTorah reading. It is a gentle and inspiring piece of music 
in anti phonal form. 

The Recording: 

(The Beth El Junior Choral Society of Akron, Ohio; Hazzan 
Jerome B. Kopmar, Director; Hazzan Robert Zalkin, Soloist; Beth 
El Records, CRC 2131) 

The Beth El Junior Choral Society recorded Wohlberg's 
"Kochve Voker" shortly before its premiere public performance in 
April of 1968. The work as interpreted by Hazzan Kopmar is a thing 
of sheer beauty. There seems to be a strong affinity between the 
musical work and the Choral Society that commissioned and re- 
corded it. It has to do with the unique singing style of this unusual 
choral group and with the personal musical style of the composer. 
Both extol the virtues of the small but controlled sound and place 
the main emphasis on quality rather than on volume. 

The Beth El J unior Choral Society constitutes a most unusual 
phenomenon. Choral groups of this caliber are usually developed in 
large schools with thousands of potential candidates to draw from 
and with ample time and resources to sustain them. When we con- 
sider the fact that the Beth El J unior Choral Society was developed 
in a small congregation in a small J ewish community, its outstand- 
ing accomplishments are rather astounding. All the credit for the 
achievements of the Choral Society is due to its director, Hazzan 
Jerome B. Kopmar, who founded and developed it. While in most 
other children's choirs there seems to be a constant shouting con- 
test, the consistent sound of Hazzan Kopmar's Choral Society (even 
with over 70 members) is surprisingly small. This, to a large extent, 
is Hazzan Kopmar's secret ingredient for success. With modern 
amplification techniques, there is really no need for wasting effort 
on producing a big sound. The energy can beneficially be diverted to 
the production of a sweet, pure and controlled tone, on musical dis- 
cipline, on precise attacks and conclusions, accurate phrasing, and 
on proper shading and blending. The sound engineer can take care 
of the rest. 

"Kochve Voker" is the third commercial recording by the Beth 


El J unior Choral Society in three years. It is by far the best. With 
each new recording, the group seems to make giant strides and 
demonstrates greater ability, assurance and virtuosity. The first 
recording ("Shirat Atidenu" by Yolkoff), was somewhat hesitant, 
but it gave an indication of things to come. The second recording, 
("A Singing of Angels" by Davidson), was much more confident and 
polished, but it lacked in diction clarity. Much of Samuel Rosen- 
baum's fine lyrics are barely intelligible. Now, with the first-rate 
recording of Wohlberg's "Kochve Voker", the Choral Society acquires 
a stature that is almost professional in caliber. We should mention 
the few minor flaws that the recording contains. There are a few mis- 
pronounced words, and we question some of the phrasings. The 
soloist, Hazzan Robert Zalkin is endowed with a beautiful baritone 
of heroic proportions. This last quality is precisely why we feel that 
it does not blend well with the children's sweer and delicate sound, 
or with Wohlberg's lacy and refined lines. 

Summing Up 

Hazzan Max Wohlberg has written a service which will enrich 
immeasurably the repertoire of J unior and Youth Choirs. Hazzan 
J erome B. Kopmar with his J unior Choral Society have demon- 
strated with their recording of this service what an equisite work it 
is. The educational opportunities which are clearly evident in this 
work should help to establish an important place for youth choirs in 
the programs of many of our congregational schools. We certainly 
hope that educators will take note. 



The following two compositions are among the first publications 
of the Hebrew University of J erusalem's — J ewish Music Research 
Center published in 1964. The compositions are taken from the 
Musical Repertiore of the 18th Century Amsterdam J ewish Portu- 
guese Community. The compositions are interesting in their indi- 
vidual approach to the solo voice and to the harmonic writing for 
three voices. 


From the Musical Repertoire of the 18th Century Amsterdam Jewish Portuguese Community 
Du Repertoire Musical de la Communaute Juive Portugaise d'Amsterdom au 18 e Siecle 

1*^4 - T3VI1 
»Hi»'P-u»JiKn» »DiN*n nnwn mj ny wvj ,d»>*»v 

Jerusalem, In collaboration with the Jewish Notional end University Library 


Adagio from an anonymous cantata for solo 
voice, from the repertoire of the Jewish 
Portuguese community of Amsterdam 

(XViuth c.) 

Edited from a manuscript in the library 
"Ets Haim" (Amsterdam) ,witb accompaniment 
by Israel Adler 

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Adagie sole 

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> j g j r f--fe ^^^=r 

h» -k - 1" " **h hi - k - Lu 

All rights reserved by the 
"Jewish Uualc Research Centre'* 
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem 


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Text: Isaac Aboab da Foneeca (1605-1693) 
Musiet Abraham Caseeres (XVIIIth c.) 

Edited, from a manuscript In the library 
"Ets Haim" (Amsterdam) t wlth realization 
of the Basse t by Israel Adler 

(n"*n niton) oio? cni:« s.ViDion 

n-«nDoi T»-aro >&*>>, n™'' hmvi 
>03n ins o»,(cmeBDK) "c"n ts" 

* A tre voce con stroment ad libitum" 


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ki hosh-W rim- shl sHim- sht od b yikh-be ya- ir B or lL ); d - 

-rim shi-rl yar- hekh z*r ' hekh lo ya. - vo <od Ki va o " rckh ki 


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va o - rtkh Kw - mi __ 3 - rl ki v* 


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tie vii st :i m t 1 n "i "> 

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n>B v ri in: mi" 

jti:r.F .ijin *• i 2 n n:s 

ni; n^: 131 lip 



Sauler. soprano. Composer at the 
piano. Naomi 1000. 

This recording of Yiddish songs by 
Lazar Weiner is excellent. Listening 
to this collection of seventeen songs 
as performed by soprano Bianca Sau- 
ler with the composer at the piano is 
a delight from beginning to end. 

The sound quality of the record is 
good and gives one an intimate feel- 
ing, as if these Yiddish poems were 
being recited or sung to each listener. 
The intimacy and strength of the 
musical settings may be a factor. 

As to the performance, singer and 
pianist have worked together to blend 
a musicality rare to be found in the 
musical world. Bianca Sauler is a 
true artist, possessing a beautiful 
voice. She spins her tones with ele- 
gance, and handles the passages with 
unerring skill and ease. Each song 
tells its particular story. Lazar Weiner 
is perhaps one of the finest pianists 
and his accompaniment truly does 
justice to his own music. 

As for interpretation, there is not 
much to say. since the composer him- 
self was the coach for the singer. The 
performance is imaginative, alive, in- 
timate, gentle, dramatic, and most 

I have purposely left out any re- 
marks about Lazar Weiner and his 
music, since the jacket of the record 
contains a beautiful and deserving 
tribute to the composer and his con- 
tribution to the Yiddish art song by 
Albert Weisser. "By far the most 
significant composer that the Yiddish 
milieu in America has so far pro- 
duced is Lazar Weiner." He must be 
reckoned among our finest contem- 
porary art-song writers. Fortunately 
for J ews his settings are of Yiddish 
poetry and his sensitivity to the 
sound and structure of Yiddish is un- 
matched among all modern composers. 

This recording should be included 
in the music library of every music 
lover and art song collector. 

Morton kula 



Dear Sir: 

In the Elul 5729 issue of your jour- 
nal, on page 20, there appeared a fine 
article about Cantor Abba Yosef 
Weisgal, by J oseph Levine. He states 
on the same page that Cantor Ger- 
shon Sirota was a pupil of Cantor 
Ersler of Wloclawelc. 

As a native of the city of Warsaw, 
where Cantor Sirota served as "Ober- 
cantor" at the great 'Tlomacka Syna- 
gogue" and was described by the Yid- 
dish press as: "The King of Haz- 
zanim" . . . , I am very curious to 
know when and how did the great 
Sirota study with Cantor Ersler. 

It should be noted that Sirota came 
to Warsaw at the very early years of 
the century — before World War I. 
He came already as a great Hazzan, 
having served as Shtot Chazan in the 
great "Shtot Shuhl" in Vilna, for a 
number of years prior to his coming 
to Warsaw. So, it is quite certain that 
Sirota. even when accepted in Vilna, 
was already a great Hazzan. That 
must have been at the latter end of 
the 19th century. 

Does J oseph Levine mean to sug- 
gest that Sirota travelled from Vilna 
or Warsaw (such large cities) to Can- 
tor Ersler in Wloclawek (a small 
town) to study hazzanut? — — — It 
does not sound likely! 

I shall be most thankful to the 
gentleman to clarify the matter, so as 
not to distort historic facts which may 
be used by a future historian who will 
write about the history of hazzanim 
and hazzanut. 

Writing these lines I am, with an- 
ticipation of your kind reply. 

Abraham n. Oler . Rabbr 
Temple Beth Tefilah 
East Hartford. Conn. 


Hazzan Levine replies: 

Rabbi Oler raises a valid doubt as 
to whether or not Gershon Sirota 
could have, or would have studied 
with Alexander Ersler in the years 
immediately following the turn of this 

Sirota was heir to the dignified 
virtuoso style originated by Kashtan 
a century before. He sang the same 
type of heroic recitatives, which fea- 
tured distinctly structured and wide- 
ranging cadenzi and which required 
phenomenal vocal resources. The tra- 
dition had been put on a firm theo- 
retical basis by Kashtan's son, Hirsch 
Weintraub who, in the words of Dr. 
Hyman Harris, ". . . dared to har- 
monize the Hebrew prayer song in its 
original traditional character, which 
Sulzer had condemned as 'Asiatic'. 
The East European Synagogue music 
centered chiefly in Odessa, where, the 
disciples of Kashtan established their 

Sirota, born in 1874, assumed his 
first pulpit in Odessa at the age of 
21, in 1895. In 1901, when he moved 
to the Shlot-Shul in Vilna, he was 
27; not at all too old to continue his 
studies with a master like Ersler, who 
had been a pupil of Weintraub in 
Koenigsberg. Once having been in- 
doctrinated in the noble style of 
Kashtan, the young Sirota was drawn 
to anyone who promised to further 
his development in that direction. 

As to whether this conjectural 
regimen of study was feasible across 
the 200 miles from Vilna to Wlocla- 
wek, Rabbi Oler has a stronger ar- 
gument. Had Weisgal asserted that 
Sirota studied with Ersler during his 
Warsaw years, beginning in 1909, the 
geographical problem would have 
been nil, as Wloclawek is practically 
a suburb of the Polish capitol. By 
then, however, Sirota enjoyed the 
collaboration and musical guidance of 
his contemporary, Leo Low as Choir- 
master at the Tlomacki Synagogue 
and he would not have felt the need 
to study with Ersler! 

So we are back where we began. 

At this point I contacted Abba 
Weisgal, my original source, who 
reiterated that when he came to 
Wloclawek in 1904, his immediate 
predecessor as Ersler's pupil had 
been Sirota. In Masoretic matters 
where the veracity of a recorder or 
the accuracy of a scribe is under 
scrutiny, we latter-day critics are at 
a disadvantage. For Weisgal, like 
Rashi's handmaiden at the Red Sea, 
saw that which even the Prophets did 
not see. If he says Sirota studied with 
Ersler from 1901-1903. TEIKU! 

J oseph A. Levine, Hazzan 

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 
Temple Israel of Wynnefield