Zavel Zilberts

Zavel Zilberts 1881 - 1949

Zavel Zilberts
1881 – 1949

Zavel Zilberts – conductor, composer and arranger was born on November 7, 1881 in the town of Carlin (a suburb of Pinsk, Minsk Province, Russian Empire, now Belarus). His father. Reb Baruch Hirsch Zilberts was a Chazan, and Zavel started singing in his father’s choir from the age of nine. As a child he also learned to play the violin. He graduated from the Warsaw Conservatory where he studied piano and musical composition.

In 1903-1906 was the conductor of the choir society “ha-Zamir” in Lodz (Congress Poland, Russian Empire, now Poland).

According to contemporaries Zilberts achieved considerable success in this endeavor, and  about the same time he began to write his first compositions: cantata for choir, folk songs and piano pieces, as well as making many arrangements. As a result, he was invited to lead the choir of the Great Synagogue, Moscow, where he stayed for 8 years.

In 1914 Zilberts returned to Lodz, where he led the celebrated “ha-Zamir” choral society. While there, he expanded the traditional repertoire of the choir, to include the oratorios by Haydn and Mendelssohn, etc.

In 1920 Zilbets went to the U.S., where he soon became the choir director of the North American Association of Cantors. In addition, he founded a choir similar to the “ha-Zamir” of Lodz in Newark, New Jersey. In 1925, he organized and led the Choral Society Zilberts  in New York, and in 1930 – Choral Society Zilberts in Newark.

His choir performed at the most prestigious concert halls in New York: Carnegie Hall and Town Hall. He also proved to be a brilliant teacher, and amongst his student was the celebrated tenor Richard Tucker.

Most of the compositions that Zavel Zilberts wrote in America were in the area of Jewish liturgy. One of the most significant is considered to be his 1934 cantata “The Dream of Jacob.” In 1943 he published a collection of synagogue music.

Zavel Zilberts died at age 67 in New York, April 25, 1949