Monday, December 10, 2012

Milken Music Archives: Yossele Rosenblatt

Guest Post from the Milken Music Archives:

Yossele Rosenblatt

It's impossible to discuss the Golden Age of cantorial music without mentioning Yossele Rosenblatt, the great chazzan of the early 20th century. Rosenblatt not only inspired audiences throughout the world during his career as one of the foremost tenors of his day but his style, compositions and dominance of the era's Jewish liturgy continue to influence performers and  interpretations of Jewish music until today. Recently Yossele Rosenblatt 's contribution to the world of Jewish music was featured in the Milken Music Archives,  an organization created by Jewish philanthropist Lowell Milken which documents the American Jewish experience through the development of American Jewish music.

Yossele Rosenblatt arrived in America in 1912, having already built up a reputation for his cantorial style in the Ukraine, Hungary, Germany and other centers of Eastern European Jewry. His immigration coincided with period in which millions of European Jews were fleeing persecution in their countries of origin and making new homes in the United States. Rosenblatt, strictly Orthodox, brought with him the familiar Ashkanazi liturgy and style of worship that the new Jewish immigrants remembered from their home countries. That, together with Rosenblatt's incredible voice, made him a sought-after performer for both synagogue services and hazzanut performances.  

Rosenblatt was a true performer who would allow his voice to break in the middle of an arrangement to convey the emotion of the experience. His techniques included cantillation in which he hit incredibly high notes at remarkably high speeds. His admirers were in awe of his structured, metered style and that style continues to greatly influenced the cantorial world to this day.

Rosenblatt received offers to perform in the world's best opera houses but he refused because it would compromise his commitment to his Jewish principles.  Rosenblatt said, on more than one occasion, that his voice was a gift from God and he would use it only in His service.

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