Cantor Isaac Algazi Sweet Singer of Israel: Ottoman Jewish Music from the Early 20th Century

Algazi Sweet Singer of Israel CD cover

Cantor Isaac Algazi
Sweet Singer of Israel: Ottoman Jewish Music from the Early 20th Century
(Schott Wergo SM 1622-2; Mainz 2002)

Rabbi Isaac Algazi (b. 1889 Izmir/Turkey, d. 1950 Montevideo/Uruguay), the “Sweet Singer of Israel,” was one of the most outstanding cantors of the Sephardic synagogue. One of the leading Turkish-Jewish intellectuals of his time, Algazi was the first to establish the art of solo cantorial singing in the public prayer of Sephardi Jews, influencing 20th century Sephardi cantorial music throughout the world.

This production contains 25 of Algazi’s finest recordings, selected by Joel Rubin and Rita Ottens from the original double cassette and book production by Edwin Seroussi, Mizimrat Qedem: The Life and Music of R. Isaac Algazi from Turkey (Jerusalem: Renanot Institute for Jewish Music, 1989). The recordings, which were mostly made in Istanbul from 1925-1929, are available for the first time on CD, having been digitally remastered by Christian Zwarg. In the 1930s there was not a single Jewish household in Turkey with a phonograph which did not possess recordings of the singer, and the non-Jewish Turks admired the cantor with the high “woman’s” voice, considering him to be one of their greatest musicians. The recordings presented here consist of chants of the High Holidays and the Sabbath, as well as religious and secular songs in Judeo-Spanish (Ladino).

The Turkish-Jewish tradition combined religious Hebrew texts with Ottoman art music. It can be traced back to the vital role of Jewish musicians at the Arabian courts before the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian peninsula in 1492. The accompanying text booklet contains an introductory essay on the Jewish Music Series by Joel Rubin and Rita Ottens, and explanatory notes to the life and music of R. Algazi by Edwin Seroussi of the Jewish Music Research Centre at Hebrew University.

Article “Die Kunst des Rabbi Isaac Algazi” by Rita Ottens

Isaac Algazi, voice
Unknown accompanists on oud, violin, kanun.

Track List:

1. Kamti be-ashmoret 2:55
2. Anna ke’av zedoni 3:03
3. Im afes rova´ ha-ken 2:48
4. Avinu malkenu 2:53
5. Yedei rashim 2:54
6. Le-britekha shokhen zevul u-shevu’a 2:45
7. Adonay sham´ati shim´akha yareti 2:54
8. Ochila la-el 2:57
9. Ha-yom harat ‘olam 2:46
10. Ha-yom harat ‘olam (a la Franka) 2:56
11. Yetzav ha-el 2:46
12. Kiddush 2:49
13. Be-motza’ei yom menuchah 2:22
14. Kiddush le-Shavu’ot 3:00
15. Teromem bat ramah and Tzame´a nafshi 3:04
16. Ahallelah shem elohim 2:43
17. Yshlach mi-shamayyim 2:46
18. Al Dio alto 2:52
19. Es razón de alabar 3:01
20. Ay mancebo, ay mancebo 2:56
21. Quién conoció mi mancevez 2:59
22. Malana tripa de madre 2:45
23. Cantica de ajugar 2:45
24. Reina de la gracia 3:04
25. Hatikvah 2:38