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Chemjo Vinaver

Chemjo VinaverCHEMJO VINAVER (1895 – 1973) was a choral conductor and composer born in Warsaw. A member of a prominent Chasidic family and a grandson of the Rebbe R. Isaac of Warka, young Chemjo (short form of Nehemiah) was imbued with Chasidic Song (nigunim) from various dynasties, which he later collected and notated.

In the early 1920s, Vinaver went to Berlin, where he studied music under Siegfried Ochs and others. In 1926 he gave his first concert, conducting a chorus in Jewish liturgical music at the Berlin Staatliche Hochschule fur Muzik (Royal Academy of Music). His performances soon were accepted by the musical public in Berlin and other major German cities.

In 1933, Vinaver and his chorus of 30 male voices made their way from Nazi Germany to European countries and Palestine, presenting programs of an entirely Jewish character. After emigrating to the United States in 1938, he continued his choral activities with a group called the Vinaver Choir, and in 1941 he accepted the post of music director of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism in New York City. He emigrated to Israel in 1959, where he conducted the choir of the Israel Radio and the Jerusalem Choir.

Vinaver is one of the few musicians who was Western in his musical education and manner of performance and whose early musical background was that of Chasidic music at the end of the 19th century. He was a great connoisseur of Chasidic nigunim but was also a meticulous selector and critic.

Vinaver is known for The Seventh Day: A Friday Evening Service (1946) and for his Anthology of Jewish Music (1955). In 1985, Dr. Eliyahu Schleifer, musicologist at Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, re-edited Vinaver’s unpublished musical transcriptions and wrote introductory notes for a second volume: The Anthology of Hassidic Music.

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