|Zavel Kwartin (1874-1953) V’Al Y’dei Avodecho
Cantor Jacob Ben Zion Mendelson, Tenor
National Opera Orchestra
Joseph Ness, Conductor
ZAVEL KWARTIN (1874-1953)—V’AL Y’DEI AVODECHO
Thus said the Lord, Sovereign of Israel, their Redeemer, the Lord of Hosts:
Under the tutelage of Music Director, David Nowakowsky and Chief Cantor, Pinchos Minkowsky, Zavel Kwartin spent his musical adolescence in the Odessa Chorshul (“choir-oriented”) tradition. But as a young Hazzan struggling to earn his livelihood in the hinterlands of Russia and Austria-Hungary, he was soon forced to abandon the finesse of a bigcity approach. Instead, hitchhiking to audition every weekend in a different hamlet, he would spend the better part of the following week futilely trying to collect donations that had been pledged to him on Shabbos.
In order to catch worshipers’ attention over the din that habitually prevented services from beginning, he would wrap his full-length woolen tallit like a hooded shawl around himself, bellow out the highest and loudest note in his range and hold on for dear life until the noise level receded enough for L’khu N’ran’noh to be heard. That kind of emotionally charged davening, called T’fillat HaRegesh [emotional prayer], evolved in the traditionalist enclave of Berdichev, in opposition to Odessa’s overly regulated and chorally dominated services. Kwartin’s early backwater experiences presumably gave him license to take a liberty on his recordings that he deleted from the published versions of those compositions: the habitual interjection of “oy-vey, oy-vey, oy-vey...”