Loewenstein-Strashunsky, Joel David

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LOEWENSTEIN-STRASHUNSKY, JOEL DAVID (1816–1850), ḥazzan. Born in Lemberg, he was the son of the ḥazzan of Vilna, Ẓevi Hirsch Loewenstein. At an early age, he became known for his fine voice and his mastery of the violin. After the death of his father in 1830, the 15-year-old lad succeeded him as ḥazzan and became known as "Der Vilner Balabesl" (the Little Householder of Vilna). After 1839 he began studying with the composer Moniuszko. In 1842, Loewenstein was invited to Warsaw where he gave recitals accompanied by a chorus and orchestra, which deeply impressed his audience comprised of the town's aristocratic and wealthy classes. The passage from the narrow ghetto world to a cosmopolitan atmosphere produced a mental shock on Loewenstein. Legend attributes it to a tragic infatuation with a Polish woman singer. He went into "voluntary exile" and for several years wandered through the communities of Central Europe, appearing in synagogues only on rare occasions. His life became the subject of legends and literary works including Mark Orenstein's Der Vilner Balabesl (Yid., 1908), and J.J. Wohl's La-Menaẓẓe'aḥ bi-Neginot (in Aḥi'asaf, 7 (1899), 177–97). Several of his prayer melodies have been preserved; Ve-Havi'enu le-Shalom, for example, was published by A. Nadel in Ost und West (5 (1905), 103–6).


Sendrey, Music, 3533, 5678–84; Idelsohn, Music, 299–302; Ḥ.N. Steinschneider, in: Talpiyyot (1895), pt. 12, 8–13; E.B., in: Ost und West, 5 (1905), 102–8; Y. Appel, Be-Tokh Reshit ha-Teḥiyyah (1936), 565–77; M.S. Geshuri, in: Ba-Mishor, 1 (1940).

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