||A musical composition for Psalm 23 dedicated to Moritz Deutsch of Breslau on the occasion of his 70th birthday December 16, 1888. Moritz Deutsch (1818-1892) was born in Nikolsburg, Moravia and was identified at an early age as a prodigy in Talmudic studies. It was his vocal talent however that brought him to Vienna to study music and the cantorial tradition. In 1842 Deutsch was appointed assistant Cantor under Salomon Sulzer at the Liberal temple in Vienna. Deutsch was deeply influenced by Sulzer’s work to develop a new cantorial recitative style and liturgical arrangements for the choir. In 1844 Deutsch began working as chief cantor at the Reform Synagogue in Breslau where he formed and lead a choir. In addition, he received a teaching post at the Breslau Theological Seminary, where he taught cantorial music for over 30 years. In 1859, Deutsch helped to found an institute for cantorial training within the Theological Seminary. The support for the new institute marked a shift away from the meshorerim tradition of cantorial apprenticeships and new backing for official programs in teaching seminaries. He also composed choral arrangements for synagogue liturgy in the classical German style which were published in the collection, Breslauer Synagogengeasenge (1880).
Eduard Birnbaum (1855-1920) was born in Cracow to a family of notable Rabbis and scholars. Birnbaum received his primary education at a Yeshiva in Bydgoszcz. His teachers identified his musical talent early on and sent him to Vilna to study hazzanut with Salomon Sulzer. In 1869, Birnbaum was awarded a sholarship to study hazzanut at the Breslau Theological Seminary, founded by Moritz Deutsch. While studying there, he was contracted to work as a hazzan in the Seminary's Synagogue. In 1872, he received an offer to officiate as the cantor for the Magdeburg community, where he served for two years. In 1874, he moved on to a position as the chief cantor in Beuthen, taking a short two month break between posts to return to Vilna and study with Sulzer. Finally in 1879, Birnbaum replaced Zvi Hirsch Weintraub as the chief cantor of Koenigsberg, a position he held until his death in 1920. According to Birnbaum’s own account, he was offered a position to succeed Sulzer in Vilna, but decided to remain in Koenigsberg where he was offered a life contract and comfortable salary.
Birnbaum was an avid collector of 18th and 19th century Synagogue music. He began his collection by copying the manuscripts in Sulzer’s private library. Aside from amassing important scores and manuscripts, Birnbaum sought out and recorded biographical information about important musicians, composers and hazzanim. He also interviewed prominent hazzanim in order to document the liturgical and para-liturgical musical practices of the major European Jewish communities. To supplement the material that he received from other cantors and researchers, Birnbaum transcribed the Synagogue tradition as he had learned it. All of these efforts culminated in what is known today as the Birnbaum Collection, which is kept in the Klau Library at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. Aside from the sheer size of the collection, what stands out most is the meticulous cataloguing of all the material that it includes. It is broken down into two main sections: musical manuscripts and scores and archival material (i.e. biographical information, newspaper and journal clippings etc…). Each item is referenced on one of several lists organized alphabetically by name, subject, location and community, or the original publisher. He also developed a complex card system which organizes the musical material by melodic and textual introductions.
Though less well known, Birnbaum also composed several liturgical works, a number of which were published posthumously. His arrangements Aseh le’Ma’an, Ha-Melekh, Kedusha, and Lekhah Dodi were included in the supplements of Der juedische Kantor (1927-31).