Friday, June 22, 2007

from The Long Road from Kherson,

Rev Taschlicky was born in Kherson, near Odessa, where his father, a gifted composer and chazan, taught him to read music as fluently as Hebrew.

Youthful breadwinner

Afte the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese war in 1905, the family fled from Russian and eventually settle in Budapest, the capital of Hungary.

Thanks to his father, music and chazanut were the dominant factor in young Moshe's life well before he was eight. By then, with his father too ill to work regularly, sweet voiced Moshe became the family's breadwinner both as a concert performer and chorister.

The age of 13 conferred on him the traditional right to lead synagogue services. Accompanied first by his father and later by an impresario, the young wonder chazan toured the Jewish communities of Hungary, officiating at Sabbath prayers and giving Sunday recitals.

He was only 16 (and now a tenor) when he gained his first post as a resident chazan, at a Budapest synagogue. Three years later, the unrest unleashed by Bela Kun's short-lived communist revolution began to affect his career. To prevent his family's deportation back to Soviet Russia, he secured a state position in the Budapest Opera, where he sang while remaining a chazan.

Operas and oratorios

But with antisemitism rampant in Hungary, he felt uncomfortable there and in 1923 he moved across Europe to Holland. He was appointed chazan in Arnhem, which then contained about 700 families.

The Jews of Arnhem had a rich musical and cultural life and the young Taschlicky, with his fine voice and wide repertoire, soon found himself in demand as a soloist in such oratorios as Handel's Judas Maccabeus and Messiah, Mahlers Das Lied von der Erde, and Berlioz's Damnation de Faust.

Call to Berlin

Hoping to pursue and operatic career, he was obliged for a time to give up chazzanut. Nevertheless, he continued to appear before Jewish audiences, singing classical and liturgical music, including compositions by his father Salomon Taschlicky.

It was the offer of a synagogue vacancy in Berlin that took him on the next stage of his journey. Despite the subsequent rise of Nazism, some of Rev. Taschlicky's fondest memories of Germany are of the non-Jewish music lovers who came to hear him in the synagogue, sometimes leaving boxes of chocolates by his seat.

Cinema intervals

In 1929, an invitation to tour America raised his hopes that he could finally escape from the insecurity of Europe. In the United States he traveled from one major Jewish center to another and was hailed as a celebrity. In some synagogues, admission to Friday night services conducted by Chazan Taschlicky was by ticket only. He was even asked to perform in cinemas during the intermission in the silent movies.

But he failed to gain entry visas to the United States for his family and he returned after only a year to Europe--this time to a synagogue in Vienna. Once again, it was his worry about rising antisemitism that prevented him from settling down. He disbelieved the confident assurances of his synagogue employers that Nazism would never spread to Austria from Germany. In 1933, he left Austria for Holland. Little over a year later, he moved to England where in 1935 Golders Green synagogue wisely selected him as its cantor out of 13 applicants.

Safe haven

At last, this wandering minstrel had reached a safe haven. With his singing, he delighted the congregation for the next 35 years...

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