In music

By Cantor Benjamin Z. Maissner.

My Dear Friends,

First of all I want to wish you all a hearty, warm, sweet, healthy Shanah Tovah and G’Mar Chatimah Tovah.

How proud I am to be able to announce to you this incredible dream come true. The long awaited publication of the three CDs of Hazzan Israel Alter is finally a reality. B’sha’ah Tovah, I have seen the fruit of my labour.

The incredible voice of the legendary Israel Alter reproduced from the original recording of 1925 in Hannover. These recordings as many of you know had been lost during the war and reclaimed by Hazzan Alter in 1948 in Hannover. Polydor Records reproduced these recordings on 78s and later EMI, a British company, published them on LP. Our dear friend, Barry Sirota z”l mastered many of the early recordings onto cassettes.

Finally, it was the efforts of my close friend, Professor Andor Izsak, President of the European Centre for Jewish Music in Hannover, who was convinced and committed to the project. It was his desire that the original recordings of Alter’s unique style of Western European display of Hazzanuth, his Hebrew and Yiddish recordings and finally his glorious Opera Oratorio and Lieder should be made available for the younger generation of the Cantorate who may have never heard the glorious stentorian tenor voice of Israel Alter.

The journey of these original recordings has been a long and unique one — from Hannover in 1948 to South Africa where Alter accepted the position of Chief Cantor of the Hebrew Congregation of South Africa. The records travelled to the USA when he became a Cantorial instructor at the Hebrew Union College in 1960. Upon his death in 1979, his daughter immigrated to Israel and brought the records to Israel. I inherited the complete set of the treasured recordings as a loving family heirloom and kept them in Israel until I brought them back to Canada with me. It was then when Professor Andor Izsak and I became acquainted with one another that we decided to collaborate on this project. Professor Izsakpromised to clean and revitalize the quality of the recordings and rescue as much as possible while maintaining the original sounds and ambiance of its authenticity.

So it was this past summer when our Cantors Assembly travelled to Germany on the mission of music and healing that we organized an impressive gathering in Hannover with many of our dear colleagues. We honoured Professor Andor Izsak for his contribution to the preservation of Jewish music in Europe. It was at this auspicious occasion that I donated my treasured family collection and Alter’s personal scrapbook to the European Center for Jewish Music and in return received the promised collection of the three CDs. Indeed we now have three marvelous CDs reflecting the great career and impact Israel Alter had on liturgical Jewish music of that period.

I must admit that in some cases we witnessed and listened to later recordings from South Africa and the USA in which the timber of his rich tenor voice had shaded a bit over the years. Nonetheless, the passion, interpretation and delivery are nothing less than incredible and magnificent. It is a lesson in artistry and commitment to text, be it prayer text, Hebrew or Yiddish art songs.

The third CD of his German Lieder Opera and Oratorio is a bonus. It contains selections of arias, lieder of recordings I myself have never heard before. Alter’s approach and interpretation as a schooled singer, a graduate of the Vienna Conservatory in the early twenties only confirms the style of the period and the legitimacy of his schooling.

These CDs are now available in a very handsome package as you can see below and you can get them from me directly. Many of you may have gotten them separately before as they were released but now the three are put together in one package.

The cost for the three with the shipping included is $48.

Should you want just the last CD of the Opera and secular repertoire with the cover box it is $18 including shipping.

Wishing you a happy and healthy Shana Tovah and G’mar Chatimah Tovah,


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