This article describes the contribution made to Jewish liturgical song by the great 19th century masters of westernised synagogue music, Salomon Sulzer, Julius Mombach, Samuel Naumbourg and Louis Lewandowski.
All came onto the scene of Jewish music at a time when vocal music had reached a position of great eminence in the secular world, and they adapted modern musical modes for use in the synagogue.
Sulzer (1804-1890), was a cantor as well as a composer. His sweet voice impressed gentiles as well as Jews, and Liszt and Schubert were amongst his admirers. His published compositions form the basis for much of synagogue liturgical melody to this day, not only in “establishment” congregations but even in some of the shtiebels (more informal prayer houses) that adhere to eastern European melodies.
Julius Mombach (1813-1880) was the only Englishman amongst this famous group, though he was actually born on the Continent. He conducted the choir of the Great Synagogue (Dukes Place), London for half a century and taught chazanut at Jews’ College. His works include many of the most popular unison melodies for the synagogue.