Singer, Josef

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SINGER, JOSEF (1841–1911), ḥazzan. Josef Singer was born in Hlinik, Hungary, where his father, Israel Singer (1806–1897), who had been a meshorer with Dovid'l Brod (Strelisker), was ḥazzan. From 1866 to 1874 Josef Singer was cantor in Beuthen (Upper Silesia) and from 1874 to 1880 chief cantor in Nuremberg. In 1881 he was called to Vienna to replace Solomon Sulzer upon the latter's retirement as chief cantor of the Viennese community in the Seitenstettengasse synagogue. He also taught singing at the Jewish Institute for the Blind and fostered the establishment of a cantors' school. He published a considerable number of studies on various aspects of ḥazzanut, chiefly in Der juedische Kantor and Oesterreich-Ungarische Kantorenzeitung, and the cantor's manual Amidat Sheli'aḥ Ẓibbur (1906). His most influential publication was the booklet Die Tonarten des traditionellen Synagogengesanges (Steiger)ihr Verhaeltnis zu den Kirchentonarten und den Tonarten der vorchristlichen Musikperiode (1886; reprinted, with abbreviations, in Aron Friedman (ed.), Dem Andenken Eduard Birnbaums, 1 (1922): 90–100). There he attempted to systematize the shtayger patterns of Ashkenazi ḥazzanut by comparing their scale structure with ancient European and Greek scales and arriving at certain hypotheses as to their antiquity and "Jewishness." The undertaking was one of the earliest attempts of its kind, and unlike similar previous and later attempts, was based both on the author's profound knowledge of the tradition and on a serious attempt to utilize the resources of historical musicology as far as they were available at that time. Its basic weaknesses were only understood much later, and for a long time Singer's theses were taken up by many writers on Jewish music.

Singer's daughter Clara married the composer Oscar *Straus. His son simon (1870–1931) became a baritone singer at the Pressburg and Hamburg operas, but from 1900 onward made a career as a cantor, officiating first at Katowice and, after World War i, at Halle. He was also a composer and writer on music.


Sendrey, Music, index; Friedmann, Lebensbilder, 1 (1918), 170; 2 (1921), 49–52; 3 (1927), 64–66; E. Birnbaum, in: Juedisches Literaturblatt, 15 (1886), fasc. 24–25 (repr. with remarks by L. Kornitzer, in: Der juedische Kantor, 6 (1932), 5:1–3); Wininger, Biog. s.v.

[Bathja Bayer]