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Death of Jewish Composer

Abraham Moses Bernstein, a famous composer of synagogue music and Jewish folk songs, has died at Vilna at the age of 67.

Bernstein, who was born in the province of Minsk, studied at the Yeshibah till the age of 19. From childhood he had strong inclinations to music. At the ago of 20 he became a chorister to the famous Cantor Rabinowitz in Kovno, and a year later was appointed his Assistant Cantor and choirmaster. At the same time, he attended the Government School of Music, studying secular music. Afterwards he became choirmaster to the famous Cantor Rozovsky, in Riga, and in 1891 he was appointed Chief Cantor at the Vilna Great Synagogue, holding this post for 30 years.

He tried in his synagogue compositions to introduce Yiddish folk song motives. Many of his compositions found wide favour and were adopted even in reform temples. Professor Soloviov, the famous music critic in Petersburg, writing in 1908 of a concert of his synagogue compositions, said: Bernstein’s compositions deserve to receive wide attention because of their religious ecstasy and fine Oriental music. In 1914 he issued the first two volumes of a complete Jewish synagogue choral service, containing compositions contributed by all the famous Cantors. The intervention of the Great War held up the further issues of this work.

Bernstein set to music many of the works of famous Yiddish poets. His interpretation of Frug’s famous poem “Have #####“, written at the time of the Kishineff pogrom, was sung all over Russia.

His music to Reisen’s “Klapp, Hemerl, Klapp” has made it one of the most popular Yiddish folk songs in the world.

Bernstein left unpublished about 200 compositions, Jewish folk songs and children’s songs, both in Yiddish and Hebrew, many of which are sung in the Yiddish schools of Vilna.

He wrote many articles on music and Hazzanut, in Yiddish and Hebrew periodicals.

He gave his valuable collection of Jewish folk songs, religious compositions, Hassidic songs, etc., to the Jewish Historical-Ethnographical Society in Vilna, which bears the name of Sh. An-sky, the author of the “Dybbuk”, who founded the Society.

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