David Kussevitsky - Interview with Mark Slobin

Streaming Media

Media is loading

Document Type

Audio Document

Publication Date



This is a personal interview with Cantor David Kussevitsky (1911-1985) later on in his life. David shares the elaborate story of his life, including many details regarding his successful career. His wife is present during the interview, and often praises David when he himself states, "I hate blowing my own horn." Kussevitsky's interview takes the listener from his musical childhood in Rostov, Russia during the Revolution, to his youth in Vilna as a choir leader, his years in the Polish army, and his subsequent moves to England and finally to the United States. In 1948, Kussevitsky took a job at Temple Emanu-El in Brooklyn where he remained on the pulpit for the rest of his life. He also traveled throughout the country, to South America, and to Israel to sing in concerts for many months out of the year. Speaking on his improvisational skill, Kussevitsky insists that this skill does not come suddenly. Improvisation, he says, must develop, and one's mind must know the key: "You can't wander off just anywhere, you have to work!" Kussevitsky himself even sings bits and pieces during the interview, providing mini-demonstrations alongside his explanation of nusach modes. He ends by stating with sadness that nusach may not be dying out, but the tradition is certainly weakening. He shares his hope that talented young cantors will hold onto the tradition and continue to sing more than congregational tunes.

Summary by Emma Goldin, (April 2014), 4th year cantorial student in Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music, HUC--JIR, NY


Access to archival quality sound files is restricted. For permission to obtain copies of these, please contact Mark Slobin at mslobin@wesleyan.edu

This document is currently not available here.