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Sulzer, Solomon


SULZER, SOLOMON (1804–1890), Austrian cantor and reformer of liturgical music. He was cantor in his native town of Hohenems, Tyrol, at the age of 16, and from 1826 officiated at the New Synagogue in Vienna. His singing won the admiration of Schubert and Liszt. Sulzer adopted a path of moderate reform, for which he won the support of the head of the community, Isaac Noah *Mannheimer. He sought to "renovate" traditional ḥazzanut by taking into consideration the musical trends of the time. Sulzer applied his principles in his great work Shir Ẓiyyon (Song of Zion), in the first part of which, published in 1840, he purified many melodies of their unbecoming additions and trimmings. He allowed his choral music, however, to be dominated by the style of Christian church music of his time, even using Christian compositions. The second part, published in 1866, included recitatives in the ancient Polish style, taken from Polish or Russian cantors, with improvements.

Though his innovations aroused little sympathy among the cantors of Eastern Europe, they were not considered as foreign or "un-Jewish," like those of the Reform movement, and they were widely adopted in modern synagogues between 1835 and 1876. Actually, as was later to become evident, Sulzer offered his community only a compromise between his own musical compositions and prevailing practice. He himself would have preferred complete reform. In a memorandum written in 1876, he suggested the introduction of an organ, curtailment of the liturgy, the use of German hymns, and even abolition of the traditional cantillation of the Torah. His approach to ḥazzanut was that of a professional musician seeking a complete break with the old style. This brought him criticism from Eastern European Jewry or only partial acceptance. Nevertheless, Sulzer restored splendor to the prayer service and enjoyed wide respect in Central Europe.

A new scientific edition of Sulzer's Shir Ẓiyyon appeared in Vienna in the series Denkmaeler der Tonkunst in Oesterreich.

[Ernst Daniel Goldschmidt /

Akiva Zimmerman]


Mandell, in: J. Fraenkel (ed.), The Jews of Austria (1967), 221–9; Idelsohn, Music, 246–60; A. Friedmann, Der synagogale Gesang (1908), 121ff.; Sendrey, Music, indexes; A.L. Ringer, in: Studie Musicologia, 11 (1969), 355–70; M. Wohlberg, in: Journal of Synagogue Music (April 1970), 19–24.

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