Cantor Isaac Algazi

Sweet Singer of Israel

(new release Rubin/Ottens Jewish Music Series Wergo)

Announcing the the 8th release in the Jewish Music Series of Joel Rubin and Rita Ottens (Schott Wergo):

Cantor Isaac Algazi: Sweet Singer of Israel
Ottoman Jewish Music from the Early 20th Century SM 1622-2
Available on 6 May, 2002

Rabbi Isaac Algazi (b. 1889 Izmir/Turkey, d. 1950 Montevideo/Uruguay), the "Sweet Singer of Israel", was one of the most outstanding cantors of the Turkish-Jewish synagogue. One of the leading Turkish-Jewish intellectuals of his time, Algazi was the first to establish the art of solo cantorial singing in the public prayer of Sephardi Jews, influencing 20th century Sephardi cantorial music throughout the world.

The Turkish-Jewish tradition combined religious Hebrew texts with Ottoman art music. It can be traced back to the vital role of Jewish musicians at the Arabian courts before the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian peninsula in 1492. Developments such as the reciprocal influence between Jewish musicians and Turkish dervishes, the masters of Moslem chant and the makam (Turk. = mode), can also be found in the interpretations of Algazi. These are characterized by a nasal voice quality, a preference for the high register and falsetto, and emphasize vibrati and virtuosic changes between the registers.

The recordings were mostly made in Istanbul from 1925-1929. The material consists of chants of the High Holidays and the Sabbath, as well as religious and secular songs in Judeo-Spanish (Ladino). The accompanying instruments are mostly oud or kanun which were played by the foremost instrumentalists of that time. It is therefore not surprising that Isaac Algazi "Effendi" recorded for almost every European record company in Turkey, including the German Odeon and British Columbia labels. In the 1930s there was not a single Jewish household in Turkey with a phonograph which did not possess recordings of the singer, and the non-Jewish Turks admired the cantor with the high "woman's" voice, considering him to be one of their greatest musicians.

This production contains 25 of Algazi's finest recordings, selected by Rubin and Ottens from the original double cassette and book production by Edwin Seroussi, "Mizimrat Qedem: The Life and Music of R. Isaac Algazi from Turkey" (Jerusalem: Renanot Institute for Jewish Music, 1989). The recordings, which are available for the first time on CD, have been digitally remastered by Christian Zwarg.

The accompanying text booklet contains an introductory essay on the Jewish Music Series by Rita Ottens and Joel Rubin, and explanatory notes to the life and music of R. Algazi by Edwin Seroussi of the Jewish Music Research Centre at Hebrew University.

A co-production Schott Wergo Music Media GmbH/Jewish Cultural Programming and Research GbR in cooperation with Renanot Institute for Jewish Music With the kind support of the PRO MUSICA VIVA Maria Strecker-Daelen Stiftung

Note: the US distribution of Wergo normally lags about 8 weeks behind Europe. In the meantime, you can order directly from German sites such as

For more information on the Jewish Music Series and other publications and activities of Joel Rubin and Rita Ottens, we invite you to visit

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