Moshe Kusevitsky (or Koussevitsky)

Picture of  Moshe Kusevitsky

Picture of  Moshe Kusevitsky

Moshe Kusevitsky sings Ovinu malkeynu
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.

Moshe Kusevitsky sings Rigoletto: La donna é mobile
In RA Format

Moshe Kusevitsky singsPagliacci: Recitar
Muztrust # 10816, 1941
In RA Format

Biographical Notes

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.

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