Solomon Kashtan

Solomon Kashtan (Weintraub)

1781 – 1829

Solomon Kashtan and Hirsch Weintraub, his son, represent one of those splendid example musical history where the chain of tradition was kept intact from father to son. For here is one of the great cantors who succeeded in training his son as his successor.Solomon Kashtan (Weintraub)  was born in Old Constantine Russia. In his early childhood, he was nicknamed “kashtan” (which means red) for his red hair, and he retained the name lovingly through Eastern Europe all his life.

He held posts in Samosz, Ticktin, Brisk and Dubnow, but traveled most of the time, as was the custom of great cantors in his day. He returned on the High Holy Days, to his post in Dubnow, which held to the end of his life.

He had a phenomenal tenor voice, with a fabulous capacity for coloratura. His recitatives and other compositions, (preserved for posterity by his son Hirsch in the third volume of his three volume new edition of synagogue music, entitled “Shire Beth Adonay”) gave ample evidence of this gift. From historical accounts of his rendition of the prayers, we learn that he could move congregations to tears by his expressive and moving style.

In Kashtan’s recitatives we find the style of the East European hazanuth of his day, and perhaps of the centuries before him. We find in his works intervals, tonalities and modulations which have disappeared from the hazanuth of our day. These characteristics are both interesting and precious from a musical point of view, and display the unique individuality of the cantorial art. An example in point is “Ki K’shimcho”, found in the third volume, (page 215).

Solomon Kashtan recognized the talent of his young son, Hirsch, when the latter was but a child. The boy possessed a beautiful soprano voice with an agile coloratura. He began to nurture this talnt, with the idea of educating the boy into the calling in which he had distinguished himself. The young Hirsch traveled with his father, and with them went a tutor who instructed the boy in Jewish studies so important for the future.

When Kashtan died in November, 1829, his son, Hirsch Weintraub (born 1817) succeeded him at his post in Dubnow. This, the father most likely had planned for a long time.

(See also Hirsch Weintraub)

(Taken from the Preface to “Shirei Beth Adonai” by H. Weintraub,
by A. W. Binder, Professor of Liturgical Music
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion)