Idelsohn, Abraham Zevi

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Idelsohn, Abraham Zevi

Idelsohn, Abraham Zevi, eminent Latvian musicologist; b. Pfilsburg, near Libau, July 13, 1882; d. Johannesburg, Aug. 14, 1938. He began his training as a Jewish cantor in Libau. After attending the Stern Cons. in Berlin, he studied at the Leipzig Cons. with Jadassohn (harmony), Krehl (counterpoint), Zoellner (composition), and Kretzschmar (music history). He was a cantor of the Regensburg Synagogue (1903–05), and then was active in Jerusalem (1906–21), where he founded the Inst. for Jewish Music (1910) and a Jewish music school (1919). From 1924 until suffering a paralytic stroke in 1934 he was a lecturer at the Hebrew Union Coll. in Cincinnati. Idelsohn was leading authority on Jewish music. His most important work was the monumental Hebräisch-Orientalischer Melodienschatz (10 vols., Leipzig, 1914-32; Eng. tr. as Thesaurus of Hebrew-Oriental Melodies, and Hebrew tr. as Otzar Negionoth Ysrael). He also ed. Sefer ha-Shirim (A New Collection of Hebrew Songs; Berlin, 1922), Tzelilé ha-Aretz (Love and Folk-Songs; Berlin, 1922), and a Jewish Song Book for the Synagogue, Home and School (Cincinnati, 1928). Among his own compositions were the music drama Jephtah (1922), syngogue services, and Hebrew songs.


Phonographierte Gesänge und Aussprachsproben desHebräischen der jemenitischen, persischen und syrischen Juden (Vienna, 1917); Manual of Musical Illustrations…on Jewish Music (Cincinnati, 1926); The Ceremonies of Judaism (Cincinnati, 1929); Jewish Music in its Historical Development (N.Y., 1929); Jewish Liturgy and Its Development (N.Y., 1932).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire