Lewandowski, Louis

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LEWANDOWSKI, LOUIS (1821–1894), choral director and composer. Born in Wreschen, near Posen, Lewandowski became a singer at the age of 12 with Ḥazzan Ascher Lion's choir in Berlin. Later he studied with Adolph Bernhard *Marx at Berlin University and with Rungenhagen and Grell at the Academy of Fine Arts. After 1840 he served as conductor of the choir at the Old Synagogue in the Heidereutergasse, and after 1866 at the New Synagogue. Lewandowski, the most significant composer of synagogue music after Solomon *Sulzer, reproduced the traditional melodies in a more classical form and treated the organ accompaniment with greater freedom than did his predecessor. His style, which was more harmonic than contrapuntal, was calculated to appeal to a wide public, and together with the soulful quality of his melodic idiom, gained great popularity for his compositions. The traditional foundations of his work were, on the one hand, the liturgy of the Old Synagogue established by the ḥazzanim Lichtenstein and Rosenfeld, and, on the other hand, the East European nusaḥ which Lewandowski received from immigrant ḥazzanim and singers. Outstanding examples of these influences are his choral work Ki ke-Shimcho; and his chief works Kol Rinah U'T'fillah (for one and two voices, 1871); Todah W'simrah (for four voices and soli, optional organ accompaniment, 2 vols., 1876–82); and 18 Liturgische Psalmen (for solo, choir, and organ; n.d.). Lewandowski also served as singing teacher at the Jewish Free School and the Jewish Teachers Seminary in Berlin. He rose slowly to a prominence which made him, in the last 20 years of his life, the greatest influence on Western Ashkenazi synagogal music for almost 50 years after his death. Although his recitatives were based mostly on tradition, the choral parts followed the style of Mendelssohn's oratorios and choruses, both in melodic idiom and harmonic structure. The adaptable musical and instrumental settings of his works allow them to be utilized by small ensembles and even by communities without an organ, yet at the same time suiting the large and prosperous centers which had spacious "temples" and professional synagogue choirs, grand organs, and musically trained ḥazzanim. Lewandowski's style was early transferred to the Conservative and moderate Reform congregations in the great urban communities of the United States.


Sendrey, Music, indices; Idelsohn, Music, 269–84; M. Davidsohn, in: Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Conference-Convention of the Cantors Assembly (1952), 30–34.

[Bathja Bayer]