Reflections on Leib Glantz


Among the giants of modern Cha’za’nut, Leib Glantz still stands out as a unique phenomenon; a synthesis of scholar, theoretician, composer and performer. This incredible coexistence of so many virtues in one individual is even more amazing if we understand that some of these virtues actually stood in contradiction to each other. The image of the composer and performer is the image of the artist: creative, imaginative, burning with desire to spread out his virtuosity. The image of the scholar is that of the sage: venerable, moderate, wary of foreign influences and innovation. Holding fast to established traditions, while at the same time looking forward for growth and progress of Cha’za’nut as an artistic and religious endeavor, typified Glantz’s career. He was the brilliant innovator and the formidable conservative. These seemingly incompatible contradictions are at the core of the present discussion of Leib Glantz’s work and personality.

An excerpt from: Harmonizing Theory with Creativity: Cantor Leib Glantz’s Musical Agenda, by Amit Klein, Prof. Eliyahu Schleifer and Prof. Edwin Seroussi, The Jewish Music Research Centre of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.


Although Glantz stemmed from a similar tradition of learning and exposure to the cantorial chants of the East European synagogue as his other talented colleagues and peers, nevertheless, he grew and developed his artistry in a style all his own, uniquely Glantzian. He elevated his creative efforts to an art form that other musicians and composers, of totally different genres of music, were drawn to appreciate and be inspired by the uniquely original performance of his own liturgical works.

In our attempt to understand Glantz among the traditional school of cantor-composers of Jewish liturgical music one could compare him, in certain ways, to the great 20th century composer, Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951). Schoenberg, considered one of the seminal figures of 20th century music was unique among the classic western composers of the 20th century. Just as Schoenberg loosened the grip of traditional tonality and explored new ways of working the 12 notes of the chromatic scales, Leib Glantz explored completely new tracks and paved a new path in rendering the “traditional” modes of East European liturgical song. Like Schoenberg, Glantz conceived and created a most original and revolutionary approach to the interpretation of the liturgical texts of the prayer book in ways never attempted before.

An excerpt from: “How Shall We Open Our Mouth Before Thee,” by Cantor Abraham Lubin, composer, educator, lecturer and researcher. Former editor of the Journal of Synagogue Music.


From the very beginning of his cantorial career, Leib Glantz displayed an original approach. His voice is a most magnificent lyric tenor, however he does not rely solely on his voice. The text and the interpretation of the words and ideas – these are for Glantz the essence of cantorial. His main focus is on the hidden meanings of the prayers. He tries to penetrate and discover the inner messages, creating music with amazing interpretations.

Glantz’s intrinsic contribution to the art of cantorial is intellectual and not only emotional. The daring musical intervals, the surprising modulations and the exciting motifs are based on diligent research and cautious discretion. Only after this stage is resolved in his mind, does Glantz apply his illustrious artistic imagination and his charming compositional talents.
…I am convinced that if we succeed in molding for the future a generation of serious and intelligent cantors — that generation will choose Leib Glantz, the cantor, composer, researcher and pedagogue, as the main image to research, to study and to follow. In the history of Jewish music, Leib Glantz is the most daring and most original cantor that ever lived!

Excerpts from: The Great Innovator, by Cantor Max Wohlberg, composer and expert in the field of Jewish music. The article was published in “The Cantor’s Voice” journal and in Hebrew in the Israeli daily newspaper “Ha’A’retz” in 1954.


Leib Glantz was a poet at heart – a heart overflowing with song. He sang a psalm of love to Israel’s prayers, its music, its festivals, its To’rah and its faith.
In a sense, his singing was but a manifestation of the poetry in his heart. He saw the world in terms of poetry, and people that could transcend themselves through song. The “People of Israel” represented for Glantz the “Song of God”. The Israel renaissance in Zion was symbolized for him in the words: “O’ sing unto the Lord a new song!”
Can we comprehend the magnitude of Glantz’s love for the Jewish people as they stand before God? Who can describe his admiration of Israel’s festivals and of the light radiating from Israel’s To’rah and customs?

Who among us who has heard Glantz’s prayers can free himself of the impression that here stood a man whose whole soul was invested in every word he uttered?
Glantz lived in a generation that had devoted its life to the love of the people of Israel, to aspiration for the rebirth of the land of Israel, and faith in the renaissance of the life of the Jewish people in their country. It was a generation of dauntless people that renewed a great deal in the life of the nation — a generation that revived the Hebrew language as its national tongue, an achievement not accomplished by generations of Jewish scholars such as the Tannaites, the Ammoraites, the Pay’ta’nim and the poets.
It was this generation that Glantz addressed, calling its sons to come to the synagogue to pray with him. Young people rediscovered their own music – the music of God – finding that it throbs in their hearts as it throbbed in the hearts of their fathers before them. Even the elders felt that Glantz had become a bridge between themselves and their sons, spanning the gap between generations that came before, and the generations yet to come.

Excerpts from: A Poet at Heart, by Professor Yehuda Even-Shmuel Kaufman, philosopher, writer and scholar.


The amazing thing about Glantz is that he truly succeeded in uncovering and comprehending the ancient secrets of the Nu’sach. This enabled him to navigate his compositions toward distant musical targets, with the confidence of a man who clearly knew where he was coming from and to where he wanted to go.
The focal point of Glantz’s cantorial creativity was his famous composition She’ma Yis’ra’el (Hear O’ Israel). This composition is considered one of the greatest cantorial works ever written, if not the greatest! When we listen to She’ma Yis’ra’el, one tends to feel that it is impossible to sing this in any other way — as if this were the final interpretation, of which there can be none other…

Excerpts from: Artistic Perfection: The Musical Interpretation of Prayers, by Maestro Elli Jaffe, classical music conductor, composer, and director of the choir of the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem.


Leib Glantz, or Leibele Glantz, as he was endearingly referred to by masses whom he enthralled by his fiery, often mystical and extraordinarily imaginative approach to Cha’za’nut, was unquestionably among the foremost practitioners of the chazanic art of the zenith period of its history. Leibele Glantz was among the last of the chazanic giants of that era, as well as one who stood out in a manner which differed from even his most illustrious contemporaries, due to his personality as well his rare vocal and musical gifts, resulting in his unique approach to his sacred calling.
The uniqueness of Leibele Glantz, formed by particular characteristics which distinguished him from all other Cha’za’nim known to this writer who preceded or followed him, stems first from his depth of intensity of passion in liturgical singing. From this metaphoric tree trunk, ever present in his chanting, branches extended in numerous directions.

Chazanic artistry comes to the fore at every level of dynamic nuance within his deeply impassioned approach in addressing the Almighty. Most typically, it is manifest in dramatic, fiery and ecstatic delivery, as if addressing the Master of the Universe, distantly perceived in the heavens above. At other times his delivery comes off as the Jew’s profoundly felt, collective cry for mercy across history. Yet at other times — unique to Glantz’s delivery — it comes off as an angry protest of the Jew across history for his suffering and persecution. Sharply contrasting to all these is the quasi-whispered intimate prayer to the Father in Heaven, now perceived as close by, on the earth below, as it were.

Excerpts from: The Uniqueness of the Chazanic Art of Leib Glantz, by Cantor Sholom Kalib, author ofThe Musical Tradition of the Eastern European Synagogue, and Professor Emeritus of Eastern Michigan University.


Leib Glantz was the paradigm mentor of Cha’za’nut in our time. Lovers of cantorial adore his glorious voice, his tears and his joyful music. Every person who was privileged to hear him praying was affected and moved by his passion and his intimate interpretations of the prayer texts. Moreover, there is not one cantor or Ba’al Te’fi’la in our time that has not been directly or indirectly influenced by the legacy left for us by Leib Glantz. Consciously or subconsciously, every improvisational sequence in today’s cantorial art contains the ingredients originally created by Leib Glantz.

He possessed the quality to heal the souls of his listeners. He provoked anger and made demands of the Almighty. He succeeded in bringing the aura of heaven to earth, so that we mortals could share a glimpse of what the creatures and angels surrounding God’s chariot might experience. Glantz evoked in us the deepest of human emotions. We experienced pain as he reminded us of the destruction of our people, our communities and our Holy Temple. His ascending, chromatic rising and falling wailing, made us tremble with anxiety, fear and awe. His pastoral passages of Ka’va’na and D’vei’kut made us dwell upon the meaning of life.

Excerpts from: “He Who Strikes Flames of Fire,” by Cantor Benjamin Z. Maissner, cantor and music director of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, Canada.


With an audience in Tel Aviv, capable of understanding the words, Glantz was able to provide ever-deeper interpretations of the prayers, finding hidden meanings and illuminating both the explicit and implicit content. He accomplished this by venturing into new musical areas rarely explored. He used chromatics (12 tone scales), as well as modern musical concepts of tonality. He would use diminished and augmented intervals, and even atonal expressions. He introduced “Pshat” (deeper interpretations, literal meanings), as well as expressionism into his music. At times Glantz would “refresh” the Nu’sach by veering far away from it, then returning to it, preventing monotony and reinforcing it anew.

His colossal vocal abilities enabled Glantz to venture vocally to wherever his creative mind took him. Though his voice was unique, his style and philosophical approach have deeply influenced all who came after him.
Contemporary composers of liturgical music are currently writing music with modern harmonies, mainly because Glantz proved that one could still be rooted in tradition and at the same time be thoroughly modern. The music performed at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue is a study of how tradition and modernism can be successfully combined — an example set by Leib Glantz.

My cantorial compositions are extremely influenced by Glantz’s teachings. I write music to enhance the text, while endeavoring to be emotionally stirring, musically interesting, yet true to the Nu’sach. Glantz opened up my imagination and showed me the limitless horizons of creativity, while at the same time remaining true to tradition. I may even write atonally, while at the same time being tonal. I can venture from one mode into another key using any note on the original scale as the new tonic of a new scale. I can use chromatics, dissonant intervals, large interval jumps; in short, I can go fearlessly wherever my imagination takes me, thanks to the path shown by the immortal genius of Leib Glantz. He will forever be an integral part of the continuous development and metamorphosis of cantorial and Jewish Music.

Excerpts from: Leib Glantz’s Impact on The Art of Cha’za’nut, by Cantor Moshe Schulhof, teacher ofCha’za’nut and Nu’sach at the Academy of Jewish Religion in New York.


A number of techniques that Glantz employed in composing and/or singing a cantorial recitative point to his grounding in, and familiarity with classical form, nuance, performance practice, and period-related trends. Some of these techniques are not normally associated with vocal music but rather suggest a musical line that could easily have been written for an instrument. Others are indicative of Glantz’s determination, be it deliberate or subconscious, to develop his own unique characteristic style. In essence, this moved his composition into a realm that might aptly be classified as “post-Romantic.” The “quasi-classical” compositions that were more or less the order of cantorial composition of the “Golden Era of Cha’za’nut” (roughly the first half of the 20th century) contained trace elements of the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods. It was Glantz alone whose music reverberated with the sound of a new era.

Historically, Leib Glantz was the luminary figure of his time, his cantorial compositions representing the final metamorphosis of the “Golden Era.” In addition to his vocal brilliance and personal creativity, the fusion of the traditional cantorial art form with the evolving sounds and trends of period-related classicism as well as the influence of instrumental music made Leib Glantz’s enigmatic and innovative style unique amongst his peers — a virtual beacon highlighting a pathway toward the future. He was the sole exponent of what can respectfully be called “Progressive 20th Century Cha’za’nut.” As Glantz himself once remarked, it would take several generations before his music was understood.

Excerpts from: The Music of Leib Glantz — Post-Romantic and Extended Instrumental Techniques, by Cantor Sidney S. Dworkin, Cantor Emeritus of Congregation Sha’ar Ha’Sho’ma’yim in Montreal, Canada and past President of the Council of Chazanim of Greater Montreal.