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Article

Natan Shahar

(b Yekatrinoslav [now Dnepropetrovsk], Dec 5, 1894; d Tel-Aviv, April 2, 1982). Israeli composer and singer. He emigrated to Palestine from the Ukraine in 1906. He studied at the Teacher's Seminary in Jerusalem where his teachers included Abraham Zvi Idelsohn. During World War I he moved to Egypt and enlisted in the British Army. After the war he returned to Palestine and, while earning his living as an accountant, took singing lessons with Jehuda Har-Melaḥ. A countertenor with a phenomenal ability to improvise, he travelled to the USA in 1923 to further his singing studies; there he specialized in improvisation and distinctive vibrato singing, similar in style to Arab-Bedouin singing or ululation. Commissioned to write an orchestral accompaniment for songs improvised in a Bedouin style, he enlisted the compositional assistance of Lazar Seminski, who encouraged him to continue to compose. His first songs, Ya leil (‘Oh night’) and ...

Article

[Conn, Catherine ]

(b New Orleans, LA, Sept 3, 1910; d New York, NY, April 17, 2007). American popular singer and actress of German Jewish heritage. She trained as a singer and actress in Europe and New York and began her career with appearances in Broadway musicals in the early 1930s. While continuing to perform on the stage, she starred in a number of Hollywood movies in the 1930s, famously alongside the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera (1935). She also acted and sang with Bing Crosby in two movies. Carlisle married the playwright and theater director moss Hart in 1946. After taking some time off to raise her two children, Carlisle established a second career in television in the 1950s. She regularly appeared on the popular TV show “To Tell the Truth” between 1957 and 1978. Her career as a singer continued with her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in Johann Strauss’s ...

Article

Motti Regev

(b Tel-Aviv, Jan 3, 1939). Israeli singer and lyricist. He was a member of the Nakhal Army Entertainment Ensemble from 1957 until 1960. His early recordings (1960–66) as a solo artist and as a member of the Yarkon Bridge Trio gained widespread popularity. He became dissatisfied with the Israeli popular music of the 1960s and turned to rock music, and between 1967 and 1972 he worked with rock-oriented musicians to record several albums which are generally considered to constitute the birth of Israeli rock. These include The High Windows Trio (1967, with Shmulik Kraus), Shablool (1970, with Shalom Hanoch) and At Avigdor’s Grass (1972, with Miki Gavrielov). In the late 1970s and the 1980s he made a series of albums with the composers Shem-Tov Levy and Yoni Rechter which included rock interpretations of Israeli traditional songs and some new songs in a similar style. During the 1980s and 90s he worked many times with his previous associates and continued to develop his brand of soft rock to critical acclaim. In creating a style rooted in Israeli musical traditions, he became an important and well-loved figure in the development of Israeli popular music from ...

Article

Dafni Tragaki

[Sarah Skinazi]

(b Constantinople, 1897?; d Athens, 1980). Greek singer of Jewish origin, famous for her recordings of smyrneiko (urban popular song from Smyrna) and rebetiko song. Eskenazy came from a poor family who moved to Thessaloniki around 1900, where she started performing as a dancer until she got married to a wealthy man and gave birth to a son, Paraschos. A few years after her marriage, her husband died and Roza moved to Athens, where she launched her successful career as a musician. In Athens her voice was discovered by the famous rebetiko composer and recordings’ supervisor for the local Columbia record company, Panagiotis Tountas, who promoted Roza as a performer of the cosmopolitan repertoire of the café-aman. As a singer born in the late Ottoman empire, Roza could fluently sing urban popular songs of the Eastern Mediterranean (smyrneiko, i.e. from Smyrna, and politiko, i.e. from Constantinople), rebetiko...

Article

Eliyahu Schleifer

(b Kiev, June 1, 1898; d Tel-Aviv, Jan 27, 1964). Israeli cantor and composer of Ukrainian birth. Born into a family of cantors (both of his grandfathers were cantors, as was his father), he made his cantorial début in Kiev at the age of eight. At the age of 14 he became the choir director at his father's synagogue, where he helped to introduce the 19th-century polyphonic repertory. He studied the piano and theory at the Totovsky Conservatory and later counterpoint and composition with Glière. In 1920 he moved to Chişinău, now in Moldova, where he served as cantor and continued his studies with Abraham Berkowitsch (known as Kalechnik), an authority on cantorial recitatives. After emigrating to the USA in 1926 he served as cantor for congregations in New York and Los Angeles. His extensive recordings with Asch and RCA Victor made him famous in Ashkenazi Jewish communities. In ...

Article

Elizabeth Forbes

(b Bucharest, c 1952). Israeli soprano of Romanian birth . She studied in Tel-Aviv and in Zürich, where she made her début in 1977 as the Queen of Night; in 1978 she sang the same role at Glyndebourne. Engaged with the Deutsche Oper, Berlin, from 1980, she has also sung in Hamburg, Munich, Vienna and Cologne and at La Scala. In ...

Article

Edith Gerson-Kiwi

revised by Israel J. Katz

(b Filzburg, nr Libau [now Liepāja, Latvia], June 11, 1882; d Johannesburg, Aug 15, 1938). Jewish cantor and musicologist of Russian birth. Raised in a traditional German Jewish environment, he trained as a cantor in Libau; he also studied briefly at Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) where he met Eduard Birnbaum. Later he studied at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin and at the conservatory and university in Leipzig; his claim to have studied at both institutions with Kretzschmar (history), Zöllner (composition) and Jadassohn (harmony) remains unsubstantiated. He served as cantor at the Adat Jeshurun congregation, Leipzig (1902). From 1903 to 1905 he was a cantor at Regensburg and then after a year in Johannesburg he was persuaded by the president of the Zionist movement, David Wolffsohn, to emigrate to Jerusalem, where he lived from 1906 to 1921. These were decisive years for Idelsohn's research into the diverse musical traditions of the Sephardi and ‘Oriental’ Jewish communities and Muslim and Christian sects. Although his plans in ...

Article

Amelia Dutta

(b Allahabad, 1870; d Mysore, 1930). North Indian vocalist of Armenian Jewish descent. Her mother Malka Jan took her in 1881 to Benares (now Varanasi), where they embraced Islam. Influenced by Malka Jan's benefactor, mother and daughter began to train in music and dance under the Lucknow kathak dancer Ali Bux. Gauhar Jan later received training from Ustad Nazir Khan of Rampur, Pyare Saheb of Calcutta and Maharaj Bindadin of Lucknow.

Her first public appearance was in 1887 for the Maharaja of Darbhanga, Bihar, who appointed her as court musician-dancer. She soon became one of the most sought-after vocalists in India, performing in concerts at conferences in Lucknow, Allahabad and Calcutta. At the peak of her career, she lived in an ostentatious residence in Calcutta and commanded fees of Rs 1000 per peformance. Some of the earliest Indian records were Gauhar Jan's. She was one of the most celebrated and flamboyant courtesan singers of the early 20th century, having sung in 20 languages and made some 600 78 r.p.m. recordings. She and Janaki Bai, another courtesan singer, were paid Rs 3000 per recording session. She was popular in both North and South India and is said to have been equally competent in both Hindustani and Karnatak styles. She is also said to have sung ...

Article

Paul Oliver

[Dodds, Robert; Spencer, Robert]

(b Hazlehurst, MS, May 8, 1911; d Greenwood, MS, Aug 16, 1938). American blues singer and guitarist. As a boy he travelled with his mother around plantations and labour camps playing the jew’s harp and the harmonica. About 1927 he acquired a guitar. He was married in 1929 but his wife died in childbirth the following year. He then led a brief and reportedly wild adult life as a musical hobo in the South. Shortly before his apparently violent death, he made a number of excellent and highly influential recordings in San Antonio and Dallas; they characterize Mississippi blues of the mid-1930s and form the link between this tradition and modern Chicago blues. His work was influenced by Son House and recordings by the guitarist Lonnie Johnson, and clearly shows an awareness of Skip James and Hambone Willie Newbern, whose themes he adapted in 32·20 Blues (1936...

Article

J.B. Steane

(b Vienna, March 23, 1895; d New York, 15 Dec. 1974). Austrian soprano . She studied in Vienna and made her début at Frankfurt in 1917, appearing in small roles and achieving a first notable success in Il barbiere. After a season at Darmstadt she sang at the Volksoper in Berlin where her parts included Konstanze in Die Entführung and Violetta in La traviata. In 1926 she became principal soprano in Munich at the Bavarian Staatsoper. She enjoyed a spectacular success at Monaco as Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos and also became a favourite at Salzburg. Guest appearances at the Vienna Staatsoper in the 1930s seemed about to lead to a substantial career but as a Jew she found her way blocked, and after a heroic period with the Jewish Theatre in Berlin left Europe for America, where she married the writer Jack Siegel and gave up her public career. A delicately clear and beautiful voice combined with remarkable agility and an imaginative style help to place her few recordings among the most delightful of the period....

Article

Harold Rosenthal

(b Jarosław, March 28, 1890; d London, Sept 1, 1957). Polish mezzo-soprano. She studied in Vienna and made her début at the Volksoper in 1911. From 1915 to 1935 she was engaged at Hamburg, and was especially successful in Verdi and Wagner, and as Delilah, Gluck's Orpheus, Fidès (Le prophète) and Marina (Boris Godunov). Being Jewish, she had to leave Germany in 1935; she settled in London, where she sang with much success at Covent Garden, 1935–9, as Ortrud (the role of her début there), Fricka, Waltraute, Brangäne, Herodias (Salome) and Háta (The Bartered Bride). From 1939 she sang in concert and recital and taught in London. She had a warm, beautiful voice and strong dramatic ability. She made few recordings, among them Brangäne in a complete 1936 Tristan with Melchior and Flagstad.

S. Wulf: ‘Sabine Kalter: eine jüdische Altistin, bis 1935 auf einer deutschen Staatsoperbühne’, ...

Article

Catherine Wojtanowski

(b Samakand, Tajikstan [Uzbekistan], Dec 28, 1920). Bukharan Jewish singer. From an early age, she immersed herself in Bukharan Jewish traditions, first under the influence of her father, a cantor, who died when she was six. Her original surname was changed to Kuinova in an attempt to avoid anti-Semitic persecution by the Soviet government. She began vocal lessons at the age of 14, performing first in her school choir and on Soviet radio. Renowned for her expertise in traditional music, she toured the Soviet Union widely, performed for foreign dignitaries and at state functions, and earned the award of Honored Artist of the Soviet Union. Kuinova also became an expert in shashmaqam, a traditional music of Central Asia which features texts that date from 15th century. In 1980, she immigrated to the United States, settling in Queens, New York, becoming an active member of the Bukharan Jewish musical community, and participating in the Soviet Jewish Community Cultural Initiative. She has performed in a variety of settings, often supported by two or three instrumentalists. In ...

Article

Elizabeth Forbes

(b Haifa, July 2, 1949). Israeli soprano. She studied in Italy and in 1976 sang Leonora (Il trovatore) in Stockholm. She also sang Leonora with the WNO (1977) and the First Lady at Glyndebourne (1978); at Wexford (1978–9) she sang Marta (...

Article

Motti Regev

(b Kiriat Haim, Dec 25, 1950). Israeli singer, composer, guitarist and bouzouki player. During the 1970s he played in various rock bands which performed mainly at weddings. One of these bands became known as Benzeen in the early 1980s, when Poliker established what was to become a fruitful and long-lasting creative partnership with the lyricist and critic Yaakov Gilad. Benzeen became highly successful with its hard rock sound, but disbanded in 1984 after the release of its second album. In 1985 Poliker made two albums of rock-oriented interpretations of Greek songs, with Hebrew lyrics by Gilad; these recordings widened Poliker’s popularity beyond the young audiences of rock and marked his shift towards a sound based on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern elements. In 1988 he recorded Ashes and Dust, in which he and Gilad explored their experiences of growing up in Israel in the 1960s as sons of survivors of the Holocaust, and this album is widely considered Poliker’s masterpiece. His later albums, two of which are purely instrumental, include virtuoso performances on guitar and ...

Article

Elizabeth Forbes

(b Liegnitz, Nov 22, 1921; d Heidelberg, Jan 15, 1989). Israeli bass of German birth. He studied in Berlin and Mannheim, making his début in 1961 at Gelsenkirchen as Iago. Engaged at Stuttgart, he sang regularly at Munich, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Berlin, where he created Soroker in Blacher’s 200 000 Taler (1969). Though his vast repertory included Don Alfonso and Hans Sachs, he specialized in 20th-century opera; he sang Dallapiccola’s Ulysses, Morone (Palestrina), Duke Adorno (Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten), Busoni’s Faust, Satan (Penderecki’s Paradise Lost), Reimann’s Lear and Schoenberg’s Moses (he has twice recorded the role of Moses). He created Löwel Perl in Penderecki’s Schwarze Maske at Salzburg (1986). The role that best displayed his outstanding musical and dramatic gifts was Dr Schön in Lulu, which he sang at Covent Garden (1981), at the Teatro Real in Madrid (...

Article

Richard Wigmore

(b Rochovot, Israel, Jan 14, 1960). South African bass-baritone of Israeli birth. The son of an Israeli father and an English mother, he emigrated to South Africa with his family in 1966. After studying singing at the RNCM in Manchester and at the University of Toronto, Saks made his professional début in 1982, in the title role in The Mikado at Stratford, Ontario. He learnt his operatic craft in Germany, singing with the Gelsenkirchen Opera from 1985 to 1988 and the Bielefeld Opera from 1988 to 1991. From 1992 to 1994 he was principal bass-baritone with Scottish Opera. Although he was admired in roles such as Leporello, this period was marred by clashes with the management over the company’s style of productions. He made his Covent Garden début, as Mr Flint in Billy Budd, in 1995 and the following year sang his first major Wagner role, Daland (...

Article

Michal Ben-Zur

[Kar’el]

(b Heidelberg, Nov 13, 1897; d Jerusalem, Jan 15, 1974). Israeli composer, conductor, singer and keyboard player of German birth. He studied the organ with Philipp Wofrum and composition with Richard Strauss. From 1920 to 1926 he held the position of conductor at the Hamburg Neues Stadt-Theater, and from 1931 to 1932 was baritone and stage director at the Deutsche Musikbühne. He emigrated to Palestine in 1933, where he was appointed programme director of the newly founded Palestine Broadcasting Service (PBS, later Kol Israel [‘The Voice of Israel’]), a position he held until his retirement in 1962; he founded the PBS Orchestra (later the Kol Israel Orchestra) in 1938.

Many of Salomon’s early works were destroyed. His music from 1933 is tonal with modal inflections, combining European traditions with folk influences to create a light, accessible style. The Sepharadic Suite (1961) incorporates Spanish melodies; popular material is also used in the Second Symphony ‘Leilot be’Cna’an (‘Nights of Canaan’, ...