Page 75 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 6 (1947-1948)

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The book represents the result of the author’s research-work
during a quarter of a century, of first-hand collecting of Synagogue
and folksongs in the Oriental and European Jewish communities.
Idelsohn analyzed these materials, making a study of practi-
cally all available old music manuscripts, as well as of the vast
literature of Synagogue and folk music published in both hemi-
spheres, at that time. He correlated all references to music
scattered throughout Hebrew literature, from the Bible down to
the latest works. In addition, he acquainted himself in detail with
the music of the many peoples among whom Israel lived, or with
whom it came into contact during the 3,500 years of its written
I t is clear that A. Z. Idelsohn was a pioneer in many respects.
He was the first to make a highly creditable survey of Jewish
music in its historical setting. He was probably the first to dis-
cover the structural similarities between the early Christian
(Gregorian) chant and the songs of the Jewish oriental synagogue
Long before the relatively recent idea of establishing the Cen-
tral Archives for Jewish Oriental Music in Jerusalem originated,
the Institute of the Berlin University (since 1905) possessed a
rich collection of material, which contained among other items
seventy recordings by Idelsohn. Here, too, he was the first in
this field of research.
Modern scholars maintain that Idelsohn’s contributions in
certain aspects are somewhat obsolete, such as construction of
Jewish scales, foundation of Jewish harmony and the rhythmical
structure of the cantillations. This should nevertheless not de-
tract from his massive achievements, at a time when Jewish
musicology was only in its embryo'nic stage.
Several other books, which attempt at least partially to treat
Jewish music in its historical setting, are
Hebrew Music
by David
Ewen (New York, Bloch, 1931), which offers a very brief survey
“from ancient times to our present day,” and the much larger
Music of the Ghetto and the Bible
by Lazare Saminsky (New York,
Bloch, 1934), which includes a number of extremely interesting
essays on a variety of problems and topics on Jewish music.
Lazare Saminsky is not only a composer and scholar, but was
the first to collect original material from among the Georgian-
Jewish community in the Caucasus in 1913. Saminsky was also
one of the founders of the Hebrew Folksong Society in St. Peters-
burg, Russia, in 1908. During the ten years of its activity, the
Society collected thousands of our old songs from every corner of
Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Galicia and even Palestine. This
activity stimulated the publication of hundreds of original com­