Legendary Cantors 1907-1947

The art of the Cantor as it is now recognised, began some 250-300 years ago when the Baal Tefillah (Prayer Master) was inspired to embellish the basic liturgy with melodies that would enhance the chanting of each prayer, and engender a greater degree of religious fervour in his congregation. The Cantor would extemporize on those basic modal themes, perhaps adding remembered folk or classical melody, and decorating with flights of coloratura and floated falsetto head tones. It was not long before schools were opened, so that aspiring young Cantors could learn these rather complicated compositions. Later more formal training was found to be advisable at accredited Music Schools and Colleges to help train in vocal techniques and musicianship.


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Review "The earliest recording on this CD is from 1907, with Gershon Sirota (1874-1943) singing "Veshomru" with a power that age cannot diminish; the quality of the sound, as with the other tracks on this CD, is amazingly clear, with digital recordings from the original 78 rpm discs. The two most recent recordings are from 1947, with Leibele Waldeman ("Shuvi Nafshi") and Richard Tucker ("Sholom Secunda" - "Yiru Eneinu"). Tucker of course was also a big star at the Metropolitan Opera, and was one of the most famous tenors of his generation, but never abandoned Chazanut, and made many recordings of cantorial works. Some highlights for me are the great Joseph Rosenblatt (1882-1933) exquisitely singing "Yaaleh V'Yoveh", recorded in 1925 with orchestra, Manfred Lewandowsky (1895-1970) with "Haneovim" from 1928, and Shalom Katz (b. 1910) with "Sasa Grossman" - "El Moleh Rachamim" who does some incredible pianissimos, as do many of the other cantors on this disc. There is however, not a single track that does not have immense beauty, as these fabulous voices rise up like a plaintive call to God from the soul. The booklet insert is excellent, with detailed liner notes on the history of cantorial singing, a synopses of the prayers sung, and biographies of the cantors, some of them including a small photograph. As mentioned previously, the sound is remarkable for its age, and total playing time is 72'28. This is a fabulous CD for anyone who loves to listen to the masters of Chazanut, or would like to explore the musical heritage of the Jewish faith." - Alejandra Vernon
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