|David Eisenstadt (1889-1942) Sham’ah VaTismach Tsiyon
Cantor Simon Spiro, Tenor
National Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Joseph Ness, Conductor
DAVID EISENSTADT (1889-1942)—SHAM’AH VATISMACH TSIYON
Exult, O Zion, rejoice, O towns of Judah...
This 1920s setting by the gifted choirmaster of Warsaw’s Tlomacki Synagogue, David Eisenstadt, stemmed from a lingering 19th-century certainty that the human condition would continue to improve. It is written in the prayer mode of optimism, Adonai Malach: God’s in heaven, all’s right with the world. The Tlomacki’s world-famous cantor, Gershon Sirota, popularized the piece in 1913, despite the objections to phonographic recordings of t’fillah by many in positions of leadership. Hazzan Abraham Moshe Bernstein of Vilna said: “If I were Rothschild, I would buy up all the recordings of hazzanut in the world and burn them as a Jew burns chamets before Pesach.” In reaction to such sharp criticism the directors of Sirota’s synagogue forbade him from fulfilling any further recording contracts, unless he first left his cantorial robe and cap in custody of the shammash! [beadle].
That was how the Tlomacki Synagogue smoothed out any ripples that appeared on the surface of its orderly cosmopolitan world. Its membership included the wealthiest industrial magnates of Poland’s capital, aristocrats who would instruct the drivers of their private carriages to drop them off a block away from the Temple on Shabbat. In its palatial surroundings a highly formal service, polished but predictable, flourished. Even the cantor’s coloratura excursions were planned to dovetail with the meticulously prepared compositions of Music Director Eisenstadt and the superbly trained male choir. This was a northern outpost of the Chorshul style that originated earlier in Odessa on the Black Sea.