Braham, John

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BRAHAM, JOHN (1774 or 1777–1856), English singer. The son of Abraham of Prosnitz (d. 1779), chorister of the Great Synagogue, London. Braham sold pencils in the street before being adopted by his father's associate Meir *Leoni, who introduced him to the Great Synagogue as his assistant. Braham made his first appearance on the stage in 1787 as "Master Braham", and in due course was taken under the patronage of Abraham *Goldsmid, who provided for his musical education. In 1797 he went to Italy and toured Europe with great success together with the celebrated Madame Storace (who bore him a son, later a Church of England clergyman). On his return to England in 1801 he was hailed as the most remarkable singer of the time. It is said that no other English tenor has ever had so wide a vocal range. He himself composed many of the songs he sang, among them "The Death of Nelson," one of the most popular patriotic songs of the period. Although in later life Braham had little contact with Judaism, he collaborated in 1815 with Isaac *Nathan in "Hebrew Melodies" for which Lord *Byron wrote the text. In 1835 Braham built the St. James' Theater in London, but the venture proved disastrous financially and in 1840 he tried, with little success, to recoup his fortunes by a concert tour in America. He continued his platform appearances until shortly before his death. Braham's daughter, Francis Elizabeth, Countess Waldegrave (1821–79), was a notable society and political hostess in the mid-Victorian period.


J.J.M. Levien, Six Sovereigns of Song (1948), 7–34; idem, Singing of John Braham (1945); C.W. Hewett, Strawberry Fair (1955); C. Roth, Essays and Portraits in Anglo-Jewish History (1962), 235–7; Sendrey, Music, index; Sands, in: jhset, 20 (1959–61), 203–14; Grove, Dict.

[Cecil Roth]