Friday, December 21, 2012

Yossele Rosenblatt

Guest post by Milken Music Archives

Music researchers often point to the great voice and expansive style of Yossele Rosenblatt when explaining cantorial music's influence on American Jewish ritual and worship since the early 20th century. Rosenblatt was recognized as one of the foremost tenors of the early 1900s, both in Europe and in America. Through his compositions, style and dedication to authentic liturgy he inspired audiences and, in doing so, helped to define Jewish liturgy in America. 

Even today, the Lowell Milken Archive, a leading force in American Jewish Music features Rosenblatt as one of the early dominant elements of American Judaism. Many of his most famous pieces, including Ram Venisa and Yevorech, are to this day extremely popular and often times heard in many synagogues around the world.

Yossele Rosenblatt had already built up a reputation as a superb Hazzan in the Ukraine, Germany, Hungary and other Eastern European Jewish centers when he immigrated to the United States in 1912. His arrival occurred during the period that millions of other Eastern European Jews were crossing the Atlantic to make new lives in America. Rosenblatt's "hazzanut" -- cantorial music -- was embraced by these Ashkanazi immigrants who were reminded of the traditional styles of worship of their homelands when they heard Rosenblatt singing.

Rosenblatt himself was strictly Orthodox and his music, as well as his personal behavior, reflected this commitment to traditional Judaism. He was a sought-after performer in many synagogues and Jewish venues though he held to the principle of never performing in a secular setting. Simple people, both Jews and non-Jews, sat together with the rich and famous for a chance to hear Rosenblatt's incredible voice which included brilliant cantillations and an ability to hit high notes at high speeds. He projected a structured, metered style which continues to influence cantors of all Jewish traditions till today. One of his best-known and most-loved techniques involved allowing his voice to break in the middle of an arrangement to convey the emotion of the piece.    

On more than one occasion Rosenblatt expressed his belief that his voice was a gift from God which Rosenblatt would use in His service.

1 comment:

Jeff Rivera said...

I heard the name of Yossele Rosenblatt through one of my Jewish friends but did not knew or realized that he was such a giant of an artist. I guess he must have had some thing special in his voice that he was so much sought after in all the synagogues. Moreover, I completely agree that his voice was a gift to him from the God.

I wish there were recordings available of his wonderful voice, so we all Jews and non Jews can celebrate and enjoy the music of such an accomplished artist. I respect his views but I hope he had not restricted him to synagogues because he was an American and he belonged to all of us.