The words seemed destined to rise like angels into the heavens. To listen to Leib Glantz was like witnessing a man speaking to God. He had a voice that sang like no other voice. The quality of his musical education, his penetrating knowledge of the Hebrew language, his deep philosophical religiosity and his amazing voice enabled Leib Glantz to create musical interpretations of the prayers that brought new light and meaning to every word.
Many have tried to imitate his singing but few felt they have succeeded.
Leib Glantz was the last, and perhaps the greatest cantor of the Golden Age of Cha’za’nut (cantorial art).
Leib Glantz was born in Kiev in 1898. His father and both grandfathers were renowned cantors with Chassidic backgrounds. Leibele, as he was fondly nicknamed, was eight years old when he made his first cantorial appearance. Word spread swiftly about the child prodigy, and invitations flowed in from all over Europe.
As a young man, Glantz studied piano at the music school of the distinguished Ukrainian pianist and composer, Nikolai Tutkovski, and composition at the Kiev Music Conservatory under the famous composer Reinhold Gliere.
In those years Glantz was a leading activist in He’Cha’lutz, a Labor Zionist movement and editor of the Ard Un Arbeit Yiddish newspaper.
In July 1926 he left Eastern Europe for the United States. His first synagogue and concert appearances made a powerful impression and he was offered a position as chief cantor of New York City’s prestigious Ohev Shalom synagogue.
In America Glantz continued to develop his musical education, studying with professor Aspinol, the vocal teacher of opera singers Enrico Caruso and Benjamino Gigli. His lyric tenor possessed unique vocal capabilities.
In 1929, he signed a recording contract with RCA Victor Recording Company. These recordings brought him invitations throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, Western and Eastern Europe, South Africa, and Palestine.
Leib Glantz was, in addition, a scholar of the origins of Jewish music. He articulated his research theories in a lecture to the delegates of the 5th Convention of the Cantors Assembly of America in New York in 1952. His ideas were considered a new path toward the analysis and understanding of the ancient Jewish prayer modes, the Nu’sach.
Glantz continued to be active in the Zionist movement in the United States and became one of its foremost leaders. In total he was nominated to be a delegate to eleven World Zionist Congresses from 1921 till 1961.
Glantz, his wife Miriam and his two children immigrated to Israel in 1954. For the last ten years of his life in Israel he enjoyed intimate interaction with a congregation of worshipers that understood the language of the prayers and was able to appreciate his unique interpretations of the prayer texts, his adherence to the ancient prayer modes and his musical innovations. He was immensely popular in Israel – where he became a household name. Many of his most memorable compositions were composed in this period of his life. In total, Leib Glantz composed 216 compositions of Cantorial, Chassidic and Israeli music. In addition to his cantorial career, he appeared in leading tenor roles in operas and classical music.
The Midnight Selichot Service, composed by Leib Glantz, is considered by many cantors, scholars, and lovers of Jewish music as the most important cantorial work ever published. It was recorded live from Tel Aviv’s Tiferet Zvi synagogue and the recording has been annually broadcast worldwide by Kol Yisrael and Kol Zion LaGolah radio since 1954.
In 1959 Glantz founded the Tel Aviv Institute of Jewish Liturgical Music, and its Cantors Academy.
Leib Glantz passed away in January 1964, while appearing on stage before a large audience in Tel Aviv, Israel. It was said of him that “he succeeded in bringing the aura of heaven to earth, so that we could share a glimpse of what the angels surrounding God’s chariot experience.”