Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
The Schmooze

Mostly Marvelous Music in Boro Park

I was pleased to see a profile in the New York Times on July 20 of the unusual cantorial-music-aficionado-turned-audiophile-sound-engineer Mendel Werdyger. Werdyger is the proprietor of Mostly Music, one of the last bastions of old school Jewish culture in New York City. While you can certainly buy the standard schlock recordings of Hasidic boys choirs there, the shop is also rich with reissues of powerful cantorial records and classics of Yiddish theater and Hasidic music.

My cousin Cantor Zachary Konigsberg and I have long been fans of Mostly Music. Zachary first introduced me to the shop when he was living in Kensington, a stone’s throw from Boro Park’s heavily populated Jewish enclave and specialty shops. We would go there partly because we got a kick out of seeing our grandfather, Cantor Jacob Konigsberg’s cassette on the shelves alongside the pantheon of cantorial greats. Here we had the opportunity to buy cassettes by many of the classic names in hazanus: Pierre Pinchik, Leib Glantz, Zavel Kwartin and more. We chatted with Werdyger on a few occasions. I was always struck by his warm and open presence and his obvious scholarship in the field of cantorial music.

So I was very glad to see Werdyger’s restoration project receive such high profile attention. At the same time, I wonder if the records will have the same emotional impact without the layers of noise and sound coloration that 78 rpm records have. For me, part of the excitement of listening to old cantorial records comes from doing the mental work of parting the mist of noise and delving deeply enough into the sound so that the separation between the noise and the music becomes blurred. I have always loved the feeling of being both repelled and beckoned forward by the strange and eerie noises of old time recordings.

Regardless of my personal listening perversities, a major reissue of Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt’s music is reason for celebration. Rosenblatt is one of the best known of the Golden Age Cantors, and his power as a performer translates beyond the boundaries of genre and culture. I once saw him name-checked in an interview with experimental Jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman, an indication of the far-reaching nature of his artistry. I am deeply happy to have the opportunity to listen to his work anew.

Watch Yossele Rosenblatt perform in ‘The Jazz Singer’ (1927):

Engage

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.