Moshe Koussevitzky. 130th anniversary of birth

Moshe Koussevitzky was born on 9th June 1889 in Smorgon in Vilnius Region.

Wide warsaw cantor moshe koussevitzky at the warsaw ghetto 10th anniversary memorial meeting in new york city
Cantor Moshe Koussevitzky at the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the outbreak of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto, New York, 1953//Wikimedia Commons/licencja GNU

Moshe Koussevitzky was born on 9th June 1889 in Smorgon in Vilnius Region to an orthodox Jewish family of musical traditions. His father, Awigdor, was a singing teacher, his mother, Alta, a pianist and his three brothers, Jakub, Simcha and Dawid, just as Moshe, became cantors. Koussevitzky learned to sing under the direction of his father, and later of famous Vilnius cantors. In 1920 be began his cantor career. He was the main cantor of the synagogue in Vilnius (since 1920) and Warsaw (since 1927). 

Koussevitzky had in his repertoire secular songs which contributed to his international fame. He gave concerts in Europe and the United States. His magnificent tenor spinto assured him a place at the forefront of not only cantors, but also opera singers. People compared him to the voices of Jan Kiepura and Enrico CarusoMoshe Koussevitzky died on 23rd August, 1965 in New York. Today is the 50th anniversary of his death. 

In 1938 he gave a performance at Carnegie Hall in New York. Even through he had offers to be the cantor of many other synagogues in the world, he never resigned from singing in the Great Synagogue in Warsaw.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, together with his wife Raja and children: Aleksandra and Sonia, he fled to the Soviet Union. He continued his vocal career there. He sang, among others, in Tbilisi Opera in Georgia. Moshe Koussevitzky was awarded the Order of Merit by Joseph Stalin. After the war, he returned to Poland, but in 1947, he emigrated to the United States and settled down in New York. He performed at Carnegie Hall and Boston’s Symphony Hall and after numerous positive reviews of American critics, he signed a contract with RCA Victor record label. Since 1952 Moshe Koussevitzky had been the cantor of the congregation Beth El in Brooklyn.

Moshe Koussevitzky died on 23rd August, 1965 in New York. Today is the 52nd anniversary of his death.

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