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The Four Koussevitzky

......Moshe Koussevitzky was born on June 9th 1899 at Smargon and came from a background of Cantors. He was the oldest of four brothers, Jacob, Simcha and David; each of whom went on to become famous Chazanim in their own right. Moshe began his singing career at the age of eight as an alto in the choir of Chazan Shlepak. Like many artistic people, he could not only sing, but he was also gifted with his hands. As he grew up he toyed with the idea of becoming an artist or a sculptor. Fortunately, however, he accepted a position as Chazan at the Vilna 'Savel's Shul' and in 1927 he auditioned for the plum position in Poland at the 'Tlomazke Shul' in Warsaw where, against the finest opposition, he was awarded the post. He took the opportunity to study voice and music, and throughout his life he always learned Torah.
Being in such an illustrious Cantorial postion, his fame spread around Europe very rapidly and soon Moshe traveled to Brussels, Antwerp, Vienna and London to give concerts. During World War II, Moshe took his family to Russia and adopted the name Mikhail Koussevitzky. While he was there he sang in the operas Boris Goudinov, Tosca and Rigoletto. When he returned to Poland he gave a concert at which the ambassadors of the United Kingdom and the United States were in the audience. As a result of this concert he obtained visas for both countries and came to England until 1947, when he traveled to settle in America.
Moshe continued to travel and concertise all over the world. Fortunately he also made numerous recordings and, even though many of them were produced on comparatively primitive equipment, it is still possible to appreciate the exceptional quality of his voice. The last Cantorial position he held was at Temple Beth El in Boro Park, Brooklyn. He died on August 23rd 1966 and is buried in Jerusalem.

Cantor David Koussevitsky
While Moishe was admired for the strength, power and range of his voice it was David Koussevitsky who had the sweeter voice. In Hebrew this quality is called Metikut  literally sweetness. David certainly had a most unusual voice, and was able to maintain long phrases on very high notes. Others have tried to copy him, but few have succeeded in coming anywhere near the excitement that he could generate by his extraordinary singing.
As a child David Koussevitzky sang in the choir in the Vilna Great Synagogue. He was intent on following a musical career from the start. He studied at the Vilna Academy of Music and became a choir master at the age of eighteen. After serving in the Polish army, he continued his voice studies in Warsaw, officiating at various Synagogues before becoming the Chief Chazan in Rovna.
 In his middle twenties, he accepted a call to the Hendon Synagogue, London, where he stayed for twelve years. Koussevitzky was not enthused with the life of a Chazan in the United Synagogue in London. In his book, 'Chosen Voices,' Mark Slobin quotes from a verbatim interview with David in which David says: "[Working for the United Synagogue] was like a government. Each shul sends their representative, like to the House of Commons... it's like the Church of England... They all had their traditional music. They had a Blue Book that they give you, and they tell you, "use it as much as possible..." You had to be there every shabbes... and [I] taught in Jews' College. I used to share the weekday services with the rabbi. I did Sunday morning. No layman was allowed to officiate...." He relates how he did not want to leyn (read the Torah), and eventually got an agreement with the 'chief warden' that he wouldn't be expected to do so
A business man, who used to travel frequently between England and the USA, persuaded David to set his sights higher and in 1948, after the businessman helped him to obtain a visa, he went to America and was appointed to the highly prized position at Temple Emanu-El in Boro Park, Brooklyn. .....
 For the rest go to

Moshe Koussevitzky
Brothers; David Kusevitsky and Moshe Koussevitzky with Moshe
(Photo courtesy of the International Center and Archives of Jewish
Music Foundation)