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Manuscript containing Jewish liturgical songs (1832) now in RISM

In 2010, a valuable music manuscript was discovered within the rooms of the Jewish Congregation of Munich and Upper Bavaria (Israelitische Kultusgemeinde München und Oberbayern): a manuscript from 1832 entitled Gottesdienstliche Gesänge der Israeliten in Wien, liturgical songs of the Jewish community in Vienna. The discoverers of the manuscript, Alon Schab (Haifa) and David Rees (Munich) stumbled upon a minor sensation with this find: the volume contains, among other things, the oldest source for Franz Schubert's Hebrew psalm "Tôw l'hôdôs" (D 953). But even among the 100 or so remaining liturgical polyphonic songs, there are interesting rarities. The core of the repertoire is made up of early versions of songs that the Viennese cantor Salomon Sulzer later published in his monumental collection Schir Zion (Vienna, 1840). In addition, there are also works in the collection by the Munich composers David Hessel (son of the Chief Rabbi of the Munich synagogue that was dedicated in 1826) and Caspar Ett, which points to lively interaction between the large Jewish congregations in Vienna and Munich during these years. The compositions in this manuscript were likely works that Sulzer sent to the Munich congregation. The synagogue's choir was founded--probably not coincidentally--in 1832, so one can view this manuscript as one of the founding documents of the ensemble.

The valuable source was handed over to the Bavarian State Library (BSB) on deposit, where it was cataloged by Steffen Voss of RISM Germany (Munich office) for the RISM database and digitized. (Link to the item in the RISM catalog). This entry therefore represents the first instance of a manuscript with liturgical synagogue music from the early nineteenth century in the RISM online catalog.

An exhibition opened on November 5, 2015 at the BSB's Music Department entitled "1826-1926, A Century of Synagogue Music in Munich: The Sources at the Bavarian State Library," curated by Dr. Uta Schaumberg and on view until January 8, 2016. On display are selections (in reproduction) from the manuscript alongside rare sources from the library's collections, such as autograph manuscripts by Munich composers Franz Lachner and Joseph Hartmann Stuntz, and works by Jewish cantors from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

At the exhibition opening, a concert took place at the Music Department in which compositions from the manuscript were performed, including the Schubert psalm named above as a highlight. The performers were members of the madrigal choir from the music conservatory and the Schma Kaulenu synagogue choir with soloist Amnon Seelig, a cantor from Berlin. David Rees and Martin Steidler conducted. After a few opening words from department head Dr. Reiner Nägele and President of the Jewish Congregation of Munich and Upper Bavaria Dr. Charlotte Knobloch, David Rees gave an exciting introduction to the history and meaning of the song collection. After the concert, the audience had the opportunity to admire the original manuscript and ask questions.

Conversations at the event brought out the importance of having the manuscript cataloged in RISM and people expressed the desire to have RISM working groups catalog more collective manuscripts containing synagogue music from the nineteenth century.

November 2015, Steffen Voss
(translated by Jennifer Ward)



Category: New at RISM

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