JSA Highlights: Cantor Moshe Koussevitzky

By , November 10, 2009 4:39 pm

Moshe koussevitzkyThe name of Cantor Moshe Koussevitzky can be placed alongside Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt, Cantor Gerson Sirota, and Cantor Zawel Kwartin — the most honored names from the Golden Age of Cantorial music. The JSA’s online selection of recordings by Cantor Moshe Koussevitzky contains 13 albums from the JSA’s Collectors Guild and Famous record label collections, a total of 100 separate song tracks.

Moshe Koussevitzky was born into a family of cantors and so his vocal gifts were not overlooked, even at an early age. Born in 1899 in Belarus, he was a teeneager when WW I began. The Koussevitzky family relocated to Russia where his cantorial studies continued. By 1925 he could be heard in the Great Synagogue of Vilna, Poland. And in 1928 Koussevitzky was awarded the position vacated by the renowned great Cantor Gerson Sirota at the Tlomacki Synagogue of Warsaw.

According to Benedict Stambler, founder of Collectors Guild records, it was in Warsaw that Koussevitzky’s “voice reached its full power and brilliance.” His popularity spread as he performed throughout Europe and Palestine in the 1930s.

Trapped in Poland during WWII Koussevitzky was rescued by members of the Polish underground and brought to Russia. There he was reunited with his family soon afterward. After the German retreat he became the principal tenor in the Tiflis National Opera Company in Georgia. The four Koussevitzky brothers were all exceptional cantors. Moshe, David, Jacob and Simcha reunited in London in 1946 to give a stirring farewell appearance at the Royal Albert Hall before an audience of thousands.

The JSA’s online collection of Koussevitzky recordings encompasses the full career of this great cantor, from his early recordings to his later works. Of special interest is his recording of Sheyiboneh Beys Hamikdosh which allows the cantor’s full range of talents to be heard.

We shall never pass this way again

By , November 4, 2009 11:34 am

Baby-Snooks-LearnsYou might be able to imagine the excitement that is generated at the Judaica Sound Archives whenever we uncover a genuine piece of history. Today I will share with you three 78 rpm albums from the Jack Saul Collection which have sitirred up some nostalgia here at the JSA.

(1)  Fanny Brice starred in the Ziegfeld Follies in the 1920s and 1930s. A pioneer female comic, she was one of the most popular Jewish entertainers of her day. And her fame became even greater when Barbra Streisand played the starring role in Brice’s life story, “Funny Girl” (1968). From 1938 until her death in 1951 Brice had an incredibly successful radio show based on just one character, Baby Snooks, a precocious, bratty toddler. This album of three double-sided 78 rpm recordings was produced in 1949 on the Capitol Records label.



Click here to play a non-downloading snippet from this album.

(2)  Born in Brooklyn, NY as Moishe Miller Robert Merrill became one of the Metropolitan Opera’s most Brooklyn-Baseball-Cantataenduring and acclaimed baritones. He was also a famous baseball fan who often sang the National Anthem on opening day at Yankee Stadium.

In 1948 he recorded Brooklyn Baseball Cantata about an imagined World Series game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Yankees. Unlike the real world where the Dodgers consistently blew their chances, in this imaginary game the Dodgers were the winners! Fantasy became reality in 1955 when the Brooklyn Dodgers did actually beat the NY Yankees to win the World Series for the first and only time. This album of two double-sided 78 rpm recordings was produced on the RCA Victor Red Seal label. The sheet music, produced by Mills Music, which originally sold for $1.25 is included.


Click here to play a non-downloading snippet from this album.

Irving-Berlin-Songs(3)  Paul Whiteman secured his place in history in 1924 when he commissioned and introduced George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Irving Berlin has been called “the greatest of American popular composers.” Born in Russia (1888), the family left for America when their home was burned to the ground. So it was in a crowded tenenment on Cherry Street in New York’s lower East Side that Irving Berlin (born Baline) grew up. His first big hit came in 1911 (Alexander’s Ragtime Band). He has written more than a thousand popular songs. During World War I his song, Oh, How I Hate To Get up In The Morning, became an anthem for the ordinary foot soldier.

The song became the band’s signature tune. Produced on the Decca label in 1939, Volume 1 of this collection of George Gershwin’s  most popular tunes consists of five double-sided 78 rpm recordings and includes: All Alone, Remember, Easter Parade, and How Deep Is The Ocean. Volume 2, also consisting of five double-sided 78 rpm recordings includes: Alexander’s Ragtime Band, What’ll I Do, Blue Skies,  and A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody.


Click here to play a non-downloading snippet from this album.

PLEASE NOTE: In accordance with US Copyright Laws these recordings are NOT featured on the JSA website (www.fau.edu/jsa). For further information about these or other recordings in the Jack Saul Collection, please contact the Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University Libraries (561-297-0080).

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