Moshe Kusevitsky (or Koussevitsky)
In RA Format
The composer of the piece is unknown. The problem with cantorial music is that composers are not equally
valued as in classical music. Much of the material is traditional, but just literally material, almost never
whole prayers or songs - just parts of them, single phrases, while the connection between those
"crucial phrases" is existing in several or even many different versions by different composers -
whose names are normally not quoted. Often, it's the cantor himself who is also a composer and singing his
own version; but not every cantor was also composing (Koussevitsky and Sirota, as far as I know, were not).
And of course, particularly the famous composers such as Rosenblatt sometimes wrote entirely new pieces to
the old texts, without using the traditional musical material. The problem is worsened by the obvious fact
that the texts are always the same - the prayers of Jewish liturgy; and worsened further by the
highly different transliterations of Hebrew. So a song's title, even if you happen to identify it
(cf. Ovinu malkenu, Avinu malkenu, Oivinu molkeinu... always the same prayer), says nothing at
all about the composition; the important prayers have been set to different music a dozen of times
and more. The most important source as to the composers of single recordings is the Freedman catalogue,
available online at this link.
In RA Format
Muztrust # 10816, 1941
In RA Format
| Moshe Kusevitsky sings||Pagliacci: Recitar
Moshe Kusevitsky was born in 1899. Kusevitsky started his career at the age of 26 as
the Chazan of the Vilna Great Synagogue. His second appointment was as
Chief-Cantor of the Tlomatsky Synagogue in Warsaw; a position
previously held by Gershon Sirota. Under the occupation, Moshe and his
family were arrested by the Gestapo to be sent to the Treblinka
Concentration Camp. Fortunately they were saved by the Polish
underground movement who enabled them to escape to Bialistock, on
condition that he used his singing talent to give concerts throughout
the main Russian cities, giving pleasure to Jews and non-Jews alike.
In 1946, he returned to Poland only to find devastation and a broken
Jewish community. He managed to obtain a visa to visit England and America.
On arrival in London, he was re-united with his mother and three
brothers. A concert tour of the main Jewish centres in Great Britain
concluded with a Farewell-Concert at the Albert Hall, London on
December 21st 1946 before an audience in excess of ten thousand. Moshe
and his family then travelled to New York, arriving on Friday January
31st 1947, to be welcomed by great numbers of admirers, Chazanium and
the general public. In 1952 Moshe accepted the position of Chief-Cantor of
Temple Beth El
of Boro Park, Brooklyn, one of the largest orthodox congregations in
America; a position in this beautiful synagogue formely occupied by
the by the famous Chazanim Berele Chagy and Mordechai Hershmann. There
he remained until he passed away in Ellul-September 1966.
I wish to thank Robert Schleisinger for the recording (Ovinu malkeynu) and notes.
I wish to thanks Benjamin Sloman for the Rigoletto recording.
I wish to thank Vladimir Efimenko for the pictures, and biographical notes.