Altschul, Joseph

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ALTSCHUL, JOSEPH

ALTSCHUL, JOSEPH (1839–1908), ḥazzan and improviser of synagogue songs. Altschul, who was commonly known as Yosh(k)e Slonimer, was born in Vilna. He went to Courland for talmudic studies, and there became a successful singer (solo soprano) with a local ḥazzan. He was appointed cantor, but preferred to perfect his singing and became apprentice to the famous ḥazzanYeruham *Blindman at Berdichev. Altschul is said to have copied the latter's style for some years but developed his own when he was town ḥazzan (ḥazzan de-mata) at Slonim (1870–88). Altschul gained wide popularity, attracted pupils from Lithuania and Poland, and was noted for his rabbinic knowledge. From 1888 until his death, Altschul served as a ḥazzan at Grodno.

Only four small works which Altschul noted down for Eduard *Birnbaum, a small fraction of his numerous compositions and improvisations, have been preserved. Some of these include easily mastered, almost popular tunes in 6/8 time which are inserted into the cantorial recitative, a predominant Lithuanian feature. The popular trend is also evident in his melodies for congregational singing.

bibliography:

Idelsohn, Melodien, 8 (1932), v, xxiii (introd.) and nos. 254–7; E. Zaludkowski, Kulturtreger fun der Yidisher Liturgie (1930), 130–3.

[Hanoch Avenary]

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