THE ARNOLD WECKER COLLECTION

AT THE LIBRARY OF THE JEWISH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
arranged and described by ELIOTT KAHN, D.M.A.,
October 1995

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COLLECTION DESCRIPTION
OVERVIEW


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Holograph score. Berosh_ haShana / A. Wecker. Bucharest, Romania, ca. 1923. (M2186.W424S910)

COLLECTION DESCRIPTION

The Arnold Wecker Music Collection is made up of cantor, composer and conductor Arnold Wecker's original synagogue compositions; his arrangements of traditional synagogue melodies for cantor, (SATB) choir and organ; and many handwritten copies of 19th and early 20th century published synagogue compositions. There are some patriotic and religous songs in the Romanian language; a collection of "Wedding music" for voices, violin and ‘cello; and many sets of (SATB) chorus part books, some intended for concert use.

Note: All the musical scores and published books may be accessed through the JTS Library Catalog (Search under "Wecker, Arnold" or title.)

 

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OVERVIEW

Nothing is known of how these six linear feet of manuscript scores came into the library's possession. Little is also known of Wecker's life. From his manuscripts we see "Oberkantor A. Wecker" engraved on several of the books that contain his synagogue compositions. There is a "Kedusche" by him, dated 1910, Bucharest (Synagogue music collection, entire liturgical year: L'cho dodi). He refers to himself on at least one other manuscript ("Rosa de Shabos" from Synagogue music collection, miscellaneous cantorials D) as "choir director of the Bucharest choral temple." Bucharest choral temple organist J. Paschill (18—?) dedicates his 1919 "Mogen uvos" (SMC, Sabbath, Friday eve) to "A. Wecker, choir director of the Bucharest choral temple, in remembrance of our long years working together."

The earliest Wecker collection manuscript dates from 1891; it is of unknown authorship, and dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the reign of King Carol I of Rumania ("Am Geburtstage des Landesfuersten"). This manuscript is part of a collection entitled "Contul Toletti. Botoshani, 1908." Botoshani was an important Moldavian Jewish enclave that boasted a 50 percent Jewish population at the turn of the century. The latest date found in the Wecker collection is on three invoices from 1934 submitted by "treasurer ("casirulin") Arnold A. Wecker [from the] Society of Cantors and Conductors" (SMC, High Holidays).

Arnold Wecker was possibly an Oberkantor in Botoshani, ca. 1891-1908. Judging from the vocal ranges in his numerous cantorial compositions, he had a tenor voice. The bulk of his activities appear to gravitate around the Bucharest Choir Temple, what the Encyclopedia Judaica refers to as "the center of progressive Jewry" in Romania. He was choir conductor and most likely composer and arranger for that congregation, ca. 1909-ca. 1934. That means he would have served during the tenure of Rabbi Moritz Beck (1845-1923), a highly respected leader of Romanian Jewry.

The heart of the Wecker music collection is its numerous "Synagogue music collections" (M2186.W424 S901-S931). All J.T.S. Library collections of manuscript synagogue music are given these generic titles to provide access to individual prayer settings contained within them. Each collection title is co-indexed according to its liturgical function (i.e. Synagogue music collection, High Holidays; SMC, Sabbath, Three Festivals). The Wecker synagogue music collections generally fall into five categories:

1. Solos for cantor with or without organ
These are cantor's part books. Usually, only cues for the chorus are included.

2. Chorus scores
This is the opposite of the above. The choir parts are written in open score but only cues or a few solos for cantor are included. Although an organ part may not be included, it would be incorrect to assume that these works are strictly a cappella.

3. Chorus part books
Mostly for soprano, alto, tenor and bass, these were usually organized by Wecker according to which service they would be used for. They are meant to be used with corresponding Wecker scores.

4. Cantorial recitatives
Primarily ornate recitatives, these are meant to be performed solo. There are five books of them: SMC, miscellaneous cantorials A,B,C,D; SMC, High Holiday cantorials.

5. Conductor's scores for cantor, choir (and organ)
These are generally complete scores with the chorus part reduced to one or two staves. Possibly scores Wecker himself conducted from, many of these were found in a pendaflex (accordion) folder marked "Die beste Composition." For easier access they have been organized and cataloged according to their liturgical function.

Two unique synagogue music collections deserve to be singled out. One set of manuscripts found together in a tied-up folder entitled "Contul Toletti. Botoshani, 1908" (SMC, miscellaneous) contains copyist's manuscripts of pieces by — among others — Nissan Blumenthal, Pinkas Minkowski, A. Dunajewski and a composer by the name of Schtejnberg. The copyists usually have signed these manuscripts and they are dated between 1891 and 1924. In addition, there is an 1896 published copy of a "Mogen owoss" by [Eliezer] Gerowitsch as well as several compositions and arrangements by Wecker himself.

The other collection, entitled, SMC, entire liturgical year, is approximately 325 ms. pages that were found tied together beneath a cover entitled, "L'cho dodi, von A. Wecker din [from] 1928." It contains mostly a cappella music for choir and cantor written in full score — again, this does not neccessarily preclude performance with organ. There are a large number of Wecker holographs for the entire liturgical year, particularly for the Sabbath and High Holidays. Several of the pages have been numbered and bound together with thread. In addition, there are several hand-written copies of pieces by — among others — [Samuel] Naumbourg, [Salamon] Sulzer, Josef Goldstein (1837-1899) and, again, [?] Shtejnberg. Most of these have been signed by their copyist.

Some of the music in the Wecker collection also offers a glimpse into the religious and social customs that centered around the Bucharest choral temple, ca. 1910-ca. 1934. There are pieces by Wecker in Romanian: "Ce este omul" for a memorial service; "Hymn de cununie," a wedding hymn; and "Pentru rege," a patriotic hymn. Wecker's "Wedding music," which consists only of parts for cantor, (ATB) chorus, violin II and violoncello, contains chorus parts that conclude either with "Pentru rege" or the zionist hymn "Hatikvoh." The "Wedding music" also utilizes both assimilated and traditional musical styles; it includes "In pace in trati," a Romanian translation of Wagner's wedding march from Lohengrin, as well as arrangements of "Mi adir," Mehero" and Lewandowski's "Aleluia."

Note: All the musical scores and published books may be accessed through the JTS Library Catalog (Search under "Wecker, Arnold" or title.)

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