by Marian Fuks [1]

Translated by Maria Piłatowicz


This paper presents an overview of musical traditions of the Jewish community in Poland, with its roots in folklore and in the religious culture centered in synagogues. Religious services could often be described as sui generis concerts for the cantor and the choir. The cantorial traditions were divided into schools established by famous singers, who all had strong voices and great musical abilities, especially of improvisation. The voice of Joel Jaszunski (d. 1850) delighted Stanisław Moniuszko and other Polish composers of the nineteenth century; tenor Gershon Sirota (1877-1943 was the most famous cantor during the interbellum period; known as the “JEwish Caruso,” he often gave concerts of secular music.

The development of religious music in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was stimulated by the creation of many large synagogues, e.g. the Large Synagogue on Tłomackie Street in Warsaw (built in 1878, destroyed during World War II and never reconstructed) which allowed for organ accompaniment. Its choir was directed by David Ajzensztadt (1892-1942). Chassidic music, located on the borderline between sacred and the secular, and integrally connected with dance, was only rarely notated or transcribed, and its creators were mostly anonymous. Jewish folk music absorbed influences from many national traditions, including the Polish one. Klezmer ensembles performed at Polish weddings, in Polish inns, occasionally at courts. Among the many klezmer poets who improvised their texts and music, Mordechai Gebirtig (1877-1942) is the most famous. Instrumental ensembles of klezmer musicians were active in Poland since the sixteenth century. The musicians did not have formal training, did not know musical notation, but delighted with their originality. Józef Michał Guzikow (1806-1837) was a virtuoso on the “straw harmonica” (the predecessor of the xylophone), known in all of Europe he was heard by Lipiński, Chopin, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Liszt, Sand, and Lamartine. Considering himself a Polish Jew, he improvised many fantasias on Polish themes, he played mazurkas, polonaises, as well as Jewish, Byelorussian, and Polish folk songs.

In 1805, Jozef Elsner wrote for the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung that “Jewish musicians play the polonaise in such an exquisite Polish spirit that no-one can be their equal.” Polish Jews valued music very highly and developed various forms of music making for their community. They also participated in Polish musical life, for example staffing the orchestras, or funding their creation (e.g. Aleksander Reichman, the founder of the Warsaw Philharmonic). This orchestra saw the beginnings of the international careers of Paweł Kochański (violinist), Gregory Piatigorski (cellist), and Grzegorz Fitelberg (conductor). Orchestral musicians included the families of Szulc, Ginsburg, and Szpilman, most of whom perished in the Holocaust. Many world-famous musicians had roots in Polish Jewry: Paul Klecki (conductor), Artur Rubinstein (pianist), Bronisław Huberman, Henryk Szeryng, and Ida Handel (violinists), Wanda Landowska (harpsichordist), and others. Polish composers of Jewish descent active in the 19th century include Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1888), whose father, Tobiasz Pietruszka, converted to Catholicism. Ludwik Grossman (1835-1915) was known for his operas, his pianos (he owned a factory), and his musical salon in Warsaw. Adolf Sonnenfeld (1837-1914) composed operettas, ballets, and popular dances. The latter was the primary domain of Leopold Lewandowski (1831-1896), violinist, composer and conductor, who penned over 300 popular Polish dances. In the 20th century there were many important composers of Jewish descent: Józef Koffler (1896-1944), Karol Rathaus (1891-1954), Szymon Laks (1901-1983), and Aleksander Tansman (1897-1986). Numerous musicologists (Józef Reiss, Zofia Lissa, Mateusz Gliński) created the foundations for this discipline in Poland. Between the wars, the Polish “music industry” was dominated by composers of Jewish descent: Henryk Gold, Jerzy Petersburski, Henryk Wars, etc. The composer of the beloved war-anthem “Czerwone maki na Monte Cassino” [Red Poppies on Monte Cassino] was Artur Schlitz. Despite the destruction of the Jewish community in Poland during World War II, the music of the many Polish Jews is a testimony of the existence and vitality of Jewish musical culture that had flourished in Poland.


At the source of Jewish music in Poland lies the religious, synagogical culture and folklore.[2] The beginnings of religious music date back to biblical times and today it is difficult to distinguish those elements which have endured in the traditional form, and those added on, and layered over the passing millenia to ultimately endow the music with its peculiar style, form, melody, and color. The synagogical music of Polish Jews was subject to various influences, among them the music of Jews from Eastern and Western Europe, as well as motives from Christian religious hymns. In past centuries traveling cantors, often accompanied by a small, simple choir, brought with them either old or quite new melodies for prayers. Those melodies were not immune to the influences of regional folklore and not only Jewish folklore.[3] Services often became concerts of a peculiar kind, where the cantor (chazen) and the choir celebrated an event which was as much aesthetic as it was religious (in traditional synagogues instrumental accompaniment had been forbidden since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem). Among the cantors individual qualifications and education varied widely. Some finished seminary and sometimes also had musical training. The majority, however, acquired their skills in practical training under a more or less prominent or famous “chazen” or cantor.

Common characteristics among the Jewish cantors in Poland, as well as in neighboring countries — Lithuania, Bielorus, and Ukraine — were: exceptional musicality, a fine, strong voice (lyrical or heroic tenor, baritone, or even bass), an intense spirituality and emotional interpretation, as well as the ability to improvise, which bordered on the creation of original compositions.[4] Within the Polish territories there were cantors of legendary fame, who were popular and recognized not only among the faithful, but also among the non-Jewish musical elite. For instance the very young, not quite 14-year old, cantor Joel Jaszunski (d. 1850) also known as “Baal-Bejsyl,” who was greatly admired by Stanisław Moniuszko and other Polish, nineteenth-century composers and musicians.[5]

The development of synagogical music in Poland was accelerated to a great degree by the construction of many new, large synagogues at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. It was quite obvious that the more magnificent the temple, the greater the ambitions as to the quality of the musical and vocal aspects of the services. The demand within the Polish territories for highly trained cantors resulted in many of them reaching the level of the best European opera singers and advancing to successful worldwide careers. Particularly influential in the area of Jewish sacred, vocal and musical culture was the Great Synagogue on Tłomackie Street in Warsaw, built by Leandro Marconi in 1878, which was a flourishing cultural site until the tragic days of the German occupation.[6] During the most important services and especially festive holidays, besides the constantly praying faithful (predominately from the ranks of a rich Jewish plutocracy), the Grand Synagogue was frequented by prominent Polish musicians, singers, clergy, and government officials. It is also worth mentioning that the Great Synagogue in Warsaw was one of the few in Poland, before the war, called “reformed” (or “German”) because, along with the choir, they allowed the accompaniment of organ music throughout the course of the service. During the period between World War I and World War II, many cantors from other Warsaw synagogues — one located in the Praga section of Warsaw, and another on Twarda Street which operates to this day — enjoyed worldwide recognition. The most prominent of them was Gerszon Sirota (1877-1943) known as the “King of Cantors” or the “Jewish Caruso” who often performed abroad, and gave concerts of secular music as well.[7] He was considered a superb dramatic tenor of great force and sweetness, the master of coloratura. He had a thorough musical education and was occasionally reproached for his “operatic mannerisms.” The efforts of the opera theaters in many countries to lure this magnificent tenor to the stage proved fruitless. He remained faithful to the synagogue. His voice was captured on many recordings, which are still distributed in the United States and in Israel; before World War II they were occasionally played by the Polish Radio. However, Gerszon Sirota was not the only renowned cantor in Warsaw. Cantor Mosze Kusewicki (1889-1965) was a singer of equal celebrity and a relative of the famous American conductor Sergei Koussevitzky. He was an object of passionate ardor for his fans and was torn between many invitations for guest performances abroad; he also made many recordings in Poland and in the United States. What saved him during World War II was his flight to the U.S.S.R. where he sung tenor parts at the Georgian Opera in Tbilisi. After the war he settled in the United States.

The synagogues in Poland were also known for excellent choirs, which were often as large as one hundred or more singers. Many of them gave performances of secular music as well. One of the finest was the choir at the Great Synagogue on Tłomackie Street in Warsaw, led by David Ajzensztadt (1890-1942). Its sound was a true revelation. The choir often appeared in public concert halls with a repertoire of secular as well as sacred music, performed for the Polish Radio. The choir took part in the 1935 production of the opera by Lodovico Rocca, Dybbuk staged by the Warsaw Opera Theatre, and joined the renowned choir of Mosze Szneur, at the Warsaw Philharmonic, for the performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.[8] One of the finest pages in the history of Jewish musical culture in Poland was the formation and support of literally hundreds of Jewish choirs.[9]

The music of the Hassidic Jews, the mystic orthodox sect, combines the elements of both sacred and folk music. One of the leaders of the Hassidic faction, Nachman Braslawer (1772-1811), characterized the adoration of God through song and dance: “Come, and I will show you the new way to God. Not through words but through song. We will sing and the heavens will understand . . .”[10] Hassidic song and dances, which usually expressed ecstasy and were full of exaltation, were most often composed by musicians and singers, who were members of the various Hassidic courts assembled around a saintly rabbi. Unfortunately, the majority of Hassidic musical composition was anonymous and only rarely recorded in musical notation by the Jewish folklore collectors. To this day old Jews in Israel and in the United States are helping musicologists to preserve this unique folk legacy, which once added splendor to various festive or solemn family occasions (betrothals, nuptials, baptisms, or funerals) and to religious holidays.

Alongside Jewish religious and Hassidic compositions there are many Jewish folk songs dealing with a variety of themes: historical, social, family, love songs, lullabies, soldier songs from World War II, and songs of the Jewish Underground and the Ghetto. Fortunately, quite a few of these songs were preserved, so that at present, we have at our disposal many great recordings by vocal groups from many countries. The lineage of Jewish folk songs varies widely. There is ample evidence in those compositions of the influence of national groups among which the Jewish population had settled — therefore, also Polish folklore. More likely it was a mutual exchange, with Polish folklore absorbing elements of the Jewish musical culture as well. Melodies popularized by so called “Klezmer Bands,” which played at Polish taverns, weddings and at the country manors of the Polish gentry, can serve as a good example of the means of such exchange.[11] Many of the Jewish folk songs were created at the spur of the moment, by autogenous poet-singers, improvising and composing music and lyrics simultaneously, at the request of their audience. Their lyrics were often meditative, filled with deep melancholy over the human fate, and mirrored the everyday hardships and joys of common folk. The music varied from sweet, almost cloying melodies, to lively Hassidic dances.

There were many poet-composers before Mordechaj Gebirtig (also known as Bertig; 1877-1942), who was considered the last of his kind.[12] He was born in Kraków and was a carpenter by profession, but he was also a poet and a bard, whose songs were written down by his musician-friends because he himself never mastered musical notation. His songs were actually musical renditions of folk poetry, for example: “A Small Orphan, A King is Born, or Play, Play Children [“Huliet, huliet kinderlech”] which became virtual hits and were sung by popular Jewish actors such as Molly Picon, Josele Kolodny and Gebirtig’s daughter, Lola. He composed more than one hundred songs, many of which were lost. His most emotionally wrenching compositions — Bells are Ringing [“Dzwonią Dzwony”], The Day of Vengeance [“Dzień Zemsty”] and others — were created during the war in the Kraków Ghetto. One of his songs written in 1938 entitled Fire! Our Town is on Fire! [“Gore, nasze miasteczko gore!”], became a call to arms during the German occupation, a hymn of the burning cities and fighting Jewish ghettos.

Jewish musicians called “klezmers,” who traveled across the Polish countryside from the beginning of the sixteenth century, were the co-authors and primary popularizers of Polish and Jewish folk music. They played in the court bands and/or folk bands, which often had dual, Polish-Jewish membership; they also played at taverns and weddings — Polish as well as Jewish. They were usually self-taught and not familiar with musical notation, but often inspired admiration because of the extraordinary skill and mastery of their instruments, be it violin or something else. There were also “klezmer” musicians traveling alone, who sometimes became the sensation of a country fair or a busy tavern, going on from there to perform at the palace of a duke or count, and then on to the grand concert halls. Such was the career of Józef Michał Guzikow (1806-1887) virtuoso of a strange instrument of folk origin, the “straw harmonica” which was the prototype of today’s xylophone.[13] The most distinguished composers, musicians and intellectuals of the time, among them Karol Lipiński, Fryderyk Chopin, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Franz Liszt, George Sand and Lamartine, all listened to him and admired his skill and artistry. Guzikow came from the village of Szkłowa (Shklova), Bielorus, but considered himself a Polish Jew. He performed his own arrangements and variations on Polish themes: songs, mazurkas, polonaises, and Jewish, Polish, and Byelorussian folk tunes. His career took him from the country fairs and city courtyards all the way to the great European concert halls, and even to the stage of the Paris Opera House. He was on the front pages of Polish, German and French newspapers, and today his name may still be found in most music encyclopedias. Many of the prominent composers who had heard Guzikow were fascinated by his technical brilliance and by the sound of his original folk instrument; they began to include parts for the xylophone in their works and incorporated the instrument into the symphony orchestra.

Guzikow was by no means an exception. There were many others like him. One of the most interesting Jewish musicians of the nineteenth century was Mordko Fajerman (1810-1880) who served as a model for the character of the Jewish musician Jankiel in the most treasured Polish national poem Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz.[14] Fajerman — a dulcimer player — was renowned in Warsaw for his unparalleled renditions of mazurkas and polonaises. In 1805 Josef Elsner (Chopin’s first music teacher), in one of his dispatches to the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung in Leipzig, wrote “Jewish musicians play the polonaise with such a Polish spirit — they are unsurpassed.”[15] Also Franciszek Benda, the Czech virtuoso violinist and composer who for “musical practice” joined a Jewish band for a time, mentions in his memoirs a blind Jew, Lebel, who “played his wild dances with unusual flair, exquisitely beautiful tone, brilliant technique and bravura.”[16]

Jewish intellectuals — those of the middle-class and those holding government posts, as well as workers, college students, and youth of school age — participated in many forms of Jewish musical culture. They frequented the concert halls and opera theaters in great numbers. They also made the most of events sponsored by the local Jewish musical societies, some of which, like the Warsaw chapter for example, had their own symphony orchestras. During the 1930s the Jewish Musical Institute was operating in Warsaw and in a number of cities, music schools or music courses were organized and run by local Jewish communities. There were also many chamber ensembles and smaller orchestras consisting of amateurs or professional musicians. There were, moreover, a dozen or so Jewish theaters performing in Poland at that time. Each put on both plays and musicals which customarily featured original works by contemporary Jewish composers such as David Bajgelman, Józef Kamiński, Henoch Kon, Szlom Prizament, Herc Rubin, Icchak Szlosberg, Izrael Szajewicz and Leon Zalman.[17]

The contribution of Jews to Polish music proves to be an interesting subject of study. The majority of musicians in many symphony orchestras were Jewish. At the beginning of this century when, as a result of the vision of Emil Młynarski and Alexander Reichman, the Warsaw Philharmonic was about to open its doors, and almost half of its newly hired musicians were Jewish. Among the members of the orchestra we find such names as the young Paweł Kochański and his brother Eli, the cellist, who later taught at the Warsaw Conservatory, another renowned cellist Gregory Piatigorski, and Adam Furmański, the trumpet player and conductor. Also listed is the name of Grzegorz Fitelberg who was leader of the second violin section before becoming the conductor and later musical director of the orchestra.[18] It is impossible to list here all the famous Jewish musicians who were members of the Warsaw Philharmonic. Also, the position of permanent accompanist at the Philharmonic was held by Ludwik Urstein, also known as the “King of Accompanists,” who was very much in demand by famous virtuosos.

Over the years the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra was populated by entire families of Jewish musicians — e.g., the Szulc family, the Ginsburgs and the Szpilmans. Later, during the German occupation, many of the same musicians played in the Jewish Symphony Orchestra in the Warsaw Ghetto; most of them perished along with their conductors Szymon Pullman, Marian Neuteichen, Adam Furmański, and David Bajgelman, murdered by Germans.[19] If we were to compile a list of Jewish conductors leading Polish orchestras (some of whom achieved worldwide recognition), it would certainly be impressive: Gregory Fitelberg, Juliusz Wertheim, Artur Rodzinski, Paweł Klecki, Ignac Neumark, Bronisław Szulc and others.[20] Many outstanding musicians who have performed in the recent past were the offspring of Jewish families from Polish territories, among them: Artur Rubinstein, Bronislaw Huberman —the founder of the prestigious Tel Aviv Philharmonic Orchestra — violinists Henryk Szeryng and Ida Hendel, pianists Ignacy Friedman, Maurycy Rosenthal, Leopold Godowski, Mieczysław Horszowski, and the famous harpsichord virtuoso Wanda Landowska — not to mention a rather large contingent of contemporary instrumentalists and composers.

The music of Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1888), composer and violinist, is very much alive today. Wieniawski was a son of a country doctor, Tobias Pietruszka, whose whole family accepted the Catholic faith and changed their name to Wieniawski, after Wieniawa—a suburb of the city of Lublin where they lived.[21] In the second half of the nineteenth century, conductor and composer Adam Mincheimer (1830-1904) was very popular in Warsaw. After the death of Stanisław Moniuszko he became the director of the Warsaw Opera Theater. He composed four operas (Otton the Archer, Stradiota, The Avenger and Mazepa) and co-authored with Moniuszko the music for the ballet Satan’s Capers.[22] Another prominent Jewish composer and musician of that time was Ludwik Grossman (1835-1915), composer of the opera Fisherman From Palermo staged in Warsaw and Paris, and another opera entitled Governor’s Ghost, which was very successful in Warsaw, Petersburg, Vienna, Berlin and Lvov.

At their home, the Grossmans maintained a fashionable “Salon”—one of the prominent centers of cultural life in Warsaw — where formal soirees were often graced by the performances of famous artists or musicians. Grossman’s Salon was frequented by many writers, composers and actors, among them, novelists Bolesław Prus and Henryk Sienkiewicz, composer Piotr Tchaikovsky, musicians Anton Rubinstein and Pablo Sarasate, as well as actress Helena Modrzejewska. Ludwik Grossman, a man of many talents and much energy, owned a piano manufacturing and storage company with his partner Juliusz Hennan; he was also one of the co-founders of the Warsaw Musical Society.

Many composers of popular music also lived in Warsaw. Adolf Sonnenfeld (1837-1914), whose style was considered Viennese by some, was also often called the “Polish Offenbach.” He was renowned for his musical inventiveness and rare ease in creating new melodies. From time to time his compositions, such as dances or fantasies, appeared under the pseudonym “Gustaw Adolfson.” He wrote seven operettas, co-authored a vaudeville — A Trip Through Warsaw — with Feliks Szober, and composed two ballets, Meluzyna and Sir Twardowski. The latter was extraordinarily successful at the Warsaw Opera Theater and had 560 performances. Later, however, Sir Twardowski was overshadowed by a ballet of Ludomir Różycki with the same title.

Leopold Lewandowski (1931-1896) was also an accomplished composer, violinist and conductor. He is chiefly known as a creator of nineteenth-century dances — the “Polish Strauss.” He composed more than three hundred pieces, most of them dances of uniquely Polish character. His mazurkas were particularly full of flair and bravura, his obereks were fiery, his kujawiaks sorrowful, and his polonaises resolute and gallant.

The twentieth century brought forth many notable names of Jewish composers from Poland. Among them were the first 12-tone composer in Poland, Józef Koffler (1896-1944) who was killed by the Germans; Karol Rathaus (1891-1954), the composer of two ballets, The Last Pierrot and Lion in Love,and the opera Foreign Soil; Szymon Laks (1901-1983) who spent most of his life in Paris; and Aleksander Tansman (1898-1991) one of the most distinguished of the contemporary composers, creator of symphonies, oratorios, operas and ballets.Polish musicologists and music critics of Jewish extraction played a considerable role in the formation of Polish musical culture during the time between the wars as well as after World War II. The most influential among them were Józef Reiss, Zofia Lissa, Alicja Simon, Maksymilian Centnerszwer, Leopold Binental, Cezary Jellenta, and Mateusz Gliński.[23] Before World War I Aleksander Reichman was one of the most active initiators, organizers and managers of the construction of the Warsaw Philharmonic, which opened in 1901; later he became its first director. He was also the founder, editor and publisher of the journal Echo Muzyczne, Teatralne i Artystyczne.

The so-called “entertainment industry” was, until the onset of World War II, dominated by Polish Jews. Along with the film producers, most composers of popular music and film scores were also Jewish. The names of Henryk Gold, Artur Gold, Jerzy Petersburski, Henryk Wars, Zygmunt Białostocki, Szymon Kataszek, Fred Melodysta, and Ada Rosner appear among the credits in films produced in Poland during the 1920s-30s. To this day their songs and melodies are often heard on Polish Radio and television. Celebrated hits such as Tango Milonga (which attained worldwide popularity under the title of Donna Clara), Blue Scarf [Niebieska chusteczka], Never Again [Już nigdy], I’m Afraid to Sleep Alone [Ja się boję sama spać], A Bit of Luck in Love [Odrobina szczęścia w miłości],and many more were written by Jerzy Petersburski. He Won’t Come Back [On nie powróci już], Forget Him [Zapominsz o nim], I’ve a Rendezvous With Her at Nine [Umówiłem się z nią na dziewiątą], Does Miss Agnes Live Here? [Czy tutaj mieszka Panna Angieszka?] and scores of other songs were composed by Henryk Wars. One could cite endlessly the titles of hit songs and names of their composers. To mention one more: Artur Schutz was the composer of Red Poppies on Monte Cassino [Czerwone maki na Monte Cassino], one of the songs of World War II most cherished by the Poles. Although the fame of those composers and the popularity of their tunes were often limited to the local arena, their contribution makes a unique page in the history of Polish music.

The beginning of World War II brought a sudden halt to the diverse activities of musicians and composers who were Jewish or of Jewish descent—the Nuremberg Laws were merciless. In the Warsaw Ghetto, which was the largest in the territories occupied by Germans, hundreds of Jewish musicians found themselves without means of survival. For a time they struggled with the aid of community-based cultural organizations and tried to help themselves by establishing the Jewish Symphony Orchestra, which played the classical repertoire and gave regular concerts between 1940-1941. Many fine musicians in desperate situations performed in small theaters and even on the streets and in the courtyards of the Ghetto. Tragically, only a few were saved by Polish friends outside the Ghetto; the majority perished in the ovens of the Treblinka Concentration Camp. What remains is their music — folk melodies, classical and popular music, and recordings that bear witness to the Jewish musical culture, Jewish and Polish music, which they had created with a sense of belonging to the people among whom they had lived for centuries.


[1]. This article provides a summary of Marian Fuks’s book, Muzyka Ocalona: Judaica Polskie [Rescued Music: Polish Judaica], published in Warsaw by Wydawnictwo Filmu i Telewizji in 1989. All notes added by Maja Trochimczyk. [Back]

[2]. Studies of synagogal music include: R. Flender, Hebrew Psalmody: A Structural Investigation (Jerusalem, 1992); A. Shiloah, Jewish Musical Traditions (Detroit, 1992); The Canonization of the Synagogue Service (Notre Dame, IN, 1979); S. Kalib, The Musical Tradition of the Eastern European Synagogue (forthcoming). Anthologies: A. Katchko, Osr ha-hazzanut: a Thesaurus of Cantorial Liturgy (New York, 1952); M. Nathanson, Zamru lo: Congregational Melodies (New York, 1954-74); C. Vinaver, Anthology of Jewish Music (New York, 1955); G. Ephros, Cantorial Anthology (New York, 1957-77); S. Rawitz, Kol Israel: Israeli Traditional Cantorial Antology, ed. M.S. Geshuri (Tel-Aviv, 1964); I. Alter, The Sabbath Service: The Complete Musical Liturgy for the Hazzan (New York, 1968). [Back]

[3]. For examples of interactions between Jewish and Slavic folk musics in Poland see the articles by Hankus Netsky and Bret Werb in this Journal.[Back]

[4]. 4. Studies of cantorial traditions in Poland include: S. Vigoda, Legendary Voices: The Fascinating Lives of the Great Cantors (New York, 1981); S. Kalib, The Musical Tradition of the Eastern European Synagogue (forthcoming). [Back]

[5]. See the research by Leon Tadeusz Błaszczyk, Żydzi w kulturze muzycznej na ziemiach polskich w XIX i XX wieku. Słownik [Jews in Musical Culture in Polish Lands in the 19th and 20th Centuries: A Dictionary], forthcoming. I thank Bret Werb for providing me with a copy of this publication. [Back]

[6]. The Great Synagogue in Warsaw was designed by architect Leandro Marconi to accomodate 3,000 people. In addition to the great prayer hall it also contained meeting rooms, a library and a school. It was blown up on 16 May 1943 to mark the defeat of the Ghetto Uprising. See Jan Jagielski and Robert Pasieczny, A Guide to Jewish Warsaw (Warsaw: Jewish Information and Tourist Bureau, 1990). [Back]

[7]. The famed singer Gershon Sirota died with his whole family in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. See the entry in Błaszczyk, Dictionary. See also: J. Turkow, Azoj iz es gewen (Buenos Aires, 1948); Enciklopediah szel galujot. Sifri-zichron larcit hagolah wedoti, VI: Warsze, ed. J. Grinbaum (Jeruzalem – Tel Aviv, 1956); G. Wigoder, Słownik biograficzny Żydów(Warsaw, 1998). [Back]

[8]. Fuks names Lodovico Rocca as the author of Dybbuk, staged by the Warsaw Opera Theatre. Il Dybuk was an opera by Italian composer Rocca (1895-1986) based on An-ski’s play of the same title and premiered at La Scala in 1934. Mosze, or Mojżesz Szneur (properly Sznejer), was born on 8 April 1878 in Cherson and died in 1942 in Uzbekistan. After music studies with Noskowski at the Music Institute in Warsaw, he became a military band conductor; he founded and conducted the Jewish Folk Choir active in Warsaw (1912-1938), also directing other Jewish choirs. See Błaszczyk, op. cit.[Back]

[9]. See Joshua R. Jacobson, “Some Preliminary Notes on a Study of The Jewish Choral Movement,” The Journal of Synagogue Music 16, no. 2 (December 1996). [Back]

[10]. Nachman Braslawer (1772-1811) or Nachman of Bratslav, was a Hasidic Rabbi and a spiritual leader of a separate sect of Hasidic Jews in the Ukraine, the Braslaver Hasids. See Arthur Green, Tormented Master: A Life of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav (University of Alabama Press, 1979). [Back]

[11]. According to the entry in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians Online, “the Yiddish term klezmer (pl. klezmorim; from the Hebrew word for musical instruments), was first used for the professional musician in the 17th century by Jews in eastern Europe. The klezmer profession originated in the older Ashkenazi centres of central Europe,” especially of Bohemia where the four to five-piece ensemble was formed (lead violin, contra-violin (sekund), cimbalom (cimbal), bass or cello, and occasionally a flute). The clarinet was a later addition (early 19th century) and the ensemble gradually grew to 10-15 men. “Throughout the territories of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Poland, Galicia, Lithuania, Belarus’, Ukraine), landowners encouraged the development of the klezmorim as a Jewish guild. During the 19th century, however, after most of these territories had come under Tsarist rule, the guild-like structure of the klezmer ensembles (kapelye, khevrisa) declined, surviving mainly in Austrian Galicia and Ottoman Moldavia.” See “Jewish Music,” IV: ii, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians Online, ed. L. Macy (Accessed 23 September 2003), [Back]

[12]. Recent publications about Mordechai (Mordecai) Gebirtig (1877-1942) include: The Mordechai Gebirtig Songbook, edited by Velvel Pasternak (Owings Mills, MD: Tara Publications, 1998); Theatrical Performance During the Holocaust: Texts, Documents, Memoirs edited by Rebecca Rovit and Alvin Goldfarb (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999); Mordecai Gebirtig: His Musical and Poetic Legacy, edited by Gertrude Schneider and Sara Rosen (Westport, Conn. : Praeger, 2000). [Back]

[13]. Michal Józef Guzikow, born in Szklów, 2 September 1806; died in Aachen, 21 October 1837. Described by the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians Online as Polish xylophonist who extensively toured Europe before an untimely death of tuberculosis. He extended the range of the instrument “to two and a half chromatic octaves and placed the keys on straw rolls in order to amplify the sound.” His repertory consisted of his own works, particularly fantasias on Polish themes and transcriptions of concerti by Weber, Hummel, Hoffmeister and Paganini, e.g., La campanella. New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians Online, ed. L. Macy, (Accessed on 22 September 2003), See also J.S. Beckford, “Michał Józef Guzikow: Nineteenth-Century Xylophonist,” Percussive Notes, Part I in vol. 33, no. 3 (June, 1995): 74-6; Part II in vol. 33, no. 4 (August, 1995): 73-5. [Back]

[14]. Roman Koropeckyj, The Poetics of Revitalization: Adam Mickiewicz between Forefathers’ Eve, part 3, and Pan Tadeusz (Boulder: East European Monographs; Distributed by Columbia University Press, 2001). [Back]

[15]. The RIPM database of 19th-century publications does not contain any references to this article, however according to Elsner’s biographer Alina Nowak-Romanowicz, in the period 1805-1819 Elsner was the musical correspondent of Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung and reported about new works, presenting for instance a history of Polish opera, as well as reviewing musical life in Poland’s capital. See Alina Nowak-Romanowicz, Józef Elsner (Kraków: PWM, 1957), 170-171. [Back]

[16]. Franz [Frantisek] Benda (1709-1786) was a Bohemian violinist and composer, son of Jan Jirí Benda. His autobiography of 1763 is one of the most widely cited documents of the period. F. Benda, Autobiography, 1763. English translation D.A. Lee, A Musician at Court: an Autobiography of Franz Benda (Warren, MI, 1998); orig. text reprinted in F. Lorenz, Die Musikerfamilie Benda, vol. 1, Franz Benda und seine Nachkommen (Berlin, 1967), 138-59. [Back]

[17]. The names of: David Bajgelman, Józef Kamiński (1903-1972), Henoch Kon (1890-1972), Szlom Prizament, prop. Szlama or Salomon (1889-?), Herc Rubin (1911-? USA), Icchok Szlosberg (1877-1930), Izrael Szajewicz (1910-1941) do not appear in the New Grove nor in the Słownik muzyków polskich, but are included in the unpublished Dictionary by Błaszczyk. Leon Zalman is not listed in either source. [Back]

[18]. Paweł Kochański (1887-1936) was a violinist, and Eli, his brother a cellist. See Tyrone Greive, “Kochański’s Collaborative Work as Reflected Through his Manuscript Collection,” Polish Music Journal 1, no. 1 (1998), online. Gregor Piatigorsky (1903-1976) was an American cellist of Ukrainian descent and is listed here erroneously. He did stop in Warsaw on his way to Leipzig and Berlin in 1921, but did not become a significant member of the city’s musical life. Adam Furmanski is not mentioned in Błaszczyk’s Dictionary nor in Słownik muzyków polskich. For Grzegorz Fitelberg see Iwona Bias, Katalog tematyczny dziel Grzegorza Fitelberga (Katowice, 1979); Lilianna Moll, Grzegorz Fitelberg in Argentinien(Katowice, 1987); Leon Markiewicz, Grzegorz Fitelberg, 1879-1953: Życie i dzieło (Warszawa: Biblioteka Narodowa, 1990s). Ludwik Urstein (1870-1939) was for a time a professor at the Music Institute in Warsaw, leaving in 1912 to continue his career as recitalist in chamber music programs and teach privately. [Back]

[19]. Szymon Pulman (1890-1943) was a virtuoso violinist, teacher and conductor, who died in Treblinka; see Błaszczyk’s Dictionary. Marian Neuteichen and Adam Furmanski are not listed in Polish reference sources. The Bajgelman family of Łódź Jews included numerous prominent musicians: Szymon (father) and Dawid (1887-1945), Szmul Zelman (1898-?), Szlama Lejb (1901-?), Abram, Chaim, Chune (1916-?), and Róża. They all died during the war, see Błaszczyk, op. cit. Dawid was a composer, violist, and conductor in music theater.[Back]

[20]. Grzegorz Fitelberg (1879-1953), see note 18. Artur Rodzinski (1892-1958), see John Hunt, The Great Dictators: Evgeny Mravinsky, Artur Rodzinski, Sergiu Celibidache (London, 1999); Sharon Hochman, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Its First Four Conductors (Chicago, 1994); Helena Rodzinska, Our Two Lives (New York: Scribner, 1976). Paweł Klecki, prop. Paul Kletzki (1900-1973), Swiss conductor of Polish descent. These conductors achieved world-wide fame and are listed in the New Grove Online which also mentions Bronisław Szulc (1881-1951). Juliusz Wertheim (1880 – ?) studied with Urban in Berlin and Noskowski in Warsaw, becoming a pianist, composer, conductor and prominent teacher. Ignacy Neumark (1888-1959), composer and conductor, studied with Artur Nikisch, worked in Berlin, Warsaw, Copenhagen and The Hague where he settled in 1922. See Błaszczyk, op. cit. [Back]

[21]. Henryk [Henri] Wieniawski (1835-1880) is listed in the New Grove Online without national identity: with Jewish roots, Polish origins, a Russian passport, a Belgian residence and an English wife, he was a prime example of a cosmopolitan musician. See W. Duleba, Henryk Wieniawski (Kraków, 1967); Emil Grabkowski Henryk Wieniawski i jego muzyka [Henryk Wieniawski and His Music] (Warsaw, 1990); L.M. Nishida, A Study of Nineteenth-Century Violin Virtuosos: Selected Composers and their Works (D.M.A. diss., California State U., 1997). [Back]

[22]. Adam Mincheimer, usually Minchejmer, sometimes Münchheimer (1830-1904) was an eminent composer and conductor, active only in Warsaw. [Back]

[23]. Of the musicologists mentioned here the most eminent were: Józef Reiss (1879-1956), author of numerous histories of Polish music and popular articles; Zofia Lissa (1908-1980), Poland’s most influential musicologist after World War II; and Mateusz Gliński (born Matteo Hercenstein, 1892-1976), the editor of Muzyka, music critic, conductor and composer. References to the remaining musicologists, Leopold Binental (1886-1943) and Maksymilian Centerszwer (1889-?), are in Błaszczyk, op. cit. According to Bret Werb, Maksymilian Centnerszwer died in the Bialystok ghetto 1943. The source of this information is an article about the artist Stanislawa Centnerszwer (Maksymilian’s wife) in Yosef Sandel Umgekumene yidishe kinstler in Poyln (Warsaw 1957), 49. [Back]

Prof. dr. hab. Marian Fuks is affiliated with the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw (since 1968). Born in 1914, he studied journalism and humanities; he spent the war years as a member of the Polish Army, participating in the 1939 campaign, in the defence of Gdańsk and Gdynia. In 1967, Fuks joined the Army reserves in the rank of the colonel, having served as the editor of Przegląd Kwatermistrzowski. His doctoral dissertation, defended at the University of Warsaw, presented the history of Polish military press (1918-1939); his next book was a study of Jewish Press in Warsaw; 1823-1939(1978). He is the author of the first monograph about Jewish music published in Poland, Muzyka Ocalona [Saved Music], which appeared in 1989. An expert in Jewish folk music, especially Chassidic musical traditions, Prof. Fuks is frequently consulted by composers who search for Jewish folk material. His second area of specialty is the music of the creator of Poland’s national opera, Stanisław Moniuszko. He has published a monograph about Jewish culture in Warsaw [Zydzi w Warszawie, 1996], two volumes of essays, From the Musical Diary, and a book about the Martyrology and Strugg1e of the Polish Jews. He is also a co-author of the album Polish Jews – History and Culture and a contributor to many encyclopedias and biographic dictionaries.