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In Glantz's Tal the young Gedalya Alexander returned to the fervent rhapsodic cantorial style, accompanied with some rather unusual textures by Joseph Finlay. His fine, light voice was starkly contrasted by the penetrating nasal timbre of Zvi Lider's rousing Ba'avor David, in a forthright if largely fortissimo performance of the well known setting by Rumshinsky/Roitman, and richly partnered by the LJMC. If the choral highlight was a telling account of Papir iz Dokh Vays, a well known Yiddish song, in which range and warmth of tone were fully in evidence, then the lyrical highpoint of the evening was the mellifluously projected Yigdal by Saqui, once cantor of the Princes Road Synagogue, Liverpool and one of Britain's most inspired cantor composers. Each of the cantors sang some solo lines with full toned backing from the choir. A lively Passover Pesach medley closed the first half, with Steven Leas taking the lion's share, including a tongue tripping Had Gadya.

The second half began with a full bodied version of the popular Yiddish song Tumbalalaika in Finlay's jazzy and popular arrangement. Asher Hainowitz radiated wise inspiring warmth and sincerity in Kwartin's B'rach dodi, a beguiling poetic setting accompanied colourfully by Alex Knapp who emphasised the exotic touches to the texture. The theme of exile and return also permeated Moshe Haschel's riveting rendition of Rosenblatt's Umipneh Chataeinu, with enthralling operatic legato particularly in the highest falsetto register.

The highpoint was the duet of Haschel and Hainowitz for Sternberg's Avinu Malkenu, their warm lyrical blending of contrasting voices moving in rich harmony. Jonathan Murgraff gave a fiery rendition of David Koussevistky's V'chol hacharim, after which lighter respite was provided by the Viennese waltz tune of Talmud's Hallelu, a setting of Psalm 117, sung by the choir and all soloists.

As a finale an ebullient Adon Olam Medley offered a show stopper that, speeding up gradually towards the fast final tune, had the audience clapping brightly. It formed an optimistic climax and a bright note on which to launch the cantor's convention that augurs well for the future of chazanut -- the cantorial tradition -- in the UK.

Copyright © 20 June 2007 Malcolm Miller, London UK



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