Cantor Josef Rosenblatt was a phenomenon of his time. Deeply religious and observant, his voice was most glorious within the context of the synagogue. Yet, he was acclaimed by Jews and Gentiles alike for his thrilling concert and theatrical performances which were motivated more by financial need than any desire for success. He would have been an unlikely super-star, standing barely more than five feet tall, were it not for his superb coloratura, the sweetness of his timbre, his unique ability to move into falsetto effortlessly, and his incredible vocal range. Although he died over 75 years ago, he is still widely regarded as foremost among chazzans.
The son of a Ruzhiner Chassid chazzan, Rosenblatt toured with his father and brother to help supplement the family income. Although only a young boy he was blessed with perfect pitch and it soon became obvious that he was the one that the crowds came to hear. He accepted his first full-time position in Munkacs, Hungary as a newly married eighteen year old. Within the year he moved on to Pressburg, Hungary where he stayed for the next five years. During this time he published a collection of recitatives and made his first phonograph recording.
In 1906 he moved to Hamburg, Germany where his family grew to number seven children. When he was invited to make a guest appearance at New York’s Congregation Ohab Zedek in 1912 he so impressed the congregation that they offered him a position with the highest salary ever paid to a cantor in the USA.
These recordings were produced prior to 1923 and are in the public domain.