Algazi, Léon (1890-1971)

by Hervé Roten

Léon Algazi is born in Epuresti (Romania) in 1890. He learns music in Vienna and in Paris. From his studies with the musicologist Abraham Zvi Idelsohn, he becomes deeply interested in the Jewih folklore and tradition. After his graduation from the Rabbinic School of Paris, he teaches Hebraic singing at the Schola Cantorum (1936-40) and at the Jewish school of pedagogy and liturgy in which he is the director of the musical studies.

From 1929 on, he hosts a French weekly radio program of Jewish music. In 1936-1937, he is director of the music in the consistorial Jewish temples of Paris and becomes conductor at the Synagogue de la Victoire. In 1961, he becomes director of music of the consistorial temples of Paris.

Tireless worker, conductor, composer and collector, Léon Algazi contributed to establish the Jewish music collection "Mizmor" on Salabert Edition (Paris). Among his numerous compositions, we can highlight the Sacred Service [1] (New York, 1954), orchestral suites, psalms, harmonisations of traditional chants, and more anecdotal, music for the movies and the theatre. Man of great rigour, Algazi published a collection of Sefardi songs (London, 1958) and also wrote essays about Jewish music in several scientific magazines.

Léon Algazi’s conducting baton

[1Let’s precise about the Sacred Service that it is a saturday morning service, as it is celebrated in the liberal or reformed synagogues in France, the United States or in England. It was composed by Léon Algazi due to a request by the Emanu-El Temple in New-York, where the composer directed its first performance in March 1952. The premiere in France took place at the salle Gaveau on March 21st 1955, still under his own direction.

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