The alto "Boy Cantor" Master Moses Mirsky, was the second son of Hebrew Minister the Rev. Simon Mirsky (orig. Mirski, b. Pinsk 1867; onetime minister at Tiflis [Tbilisi]; d. Glasgow 1945) & his wife Rose (or Rosa) (nee Steinberg; b. Bialystok c. 1869). He was born in Bialystok (West Russia, now Poland), a major centre of Polish Jewry at the time and soon described as a "Wunderkind" (child prodigy). Moses followed his father to London around November 1904 and conducted services in the East End from January 1905, being trained initially as a Reader. He was complimented by fellow cantors in London for "his wonderful talent in singing. His tone and musical voice are perfectly marvellous". Later that year he gave concerts and officiated at services throughout Britain, including visits to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Newcastle, Glasgow & Edinburgh. He also sang before Professors Lamany, Georges Philips & Lazarus at the Royal College of Music in London, from whom he received the highest praise for his alto voice of great power and range.
In the summer of 1906 he gave concerts in many German cities, starting at Frankfurt-am-Main, having already been awarded the gold medal of the Musical Society of Amsterdam. ("This unusually gifted boy possesses an extraordinarily beautiful, bright, bell-pure voice and his singing technique borders on the miraculous. Especially delightful were Hebrew melodies, which he performed with an indescribably deep Jewish and musical feeling." - transl. from "Ost und West", Berlin, Aug. 1906.) In May 1908 he gave a recital at the Bechstein (now Wigmore) Hall in the West End of London.
In July 1905 The Birmingham Evening Despatch described his singing thus: "A rich alto voice pianissimo, rising in swift crescendos until it flooded the hall with sound, sinking again to piano, garnished with florid little turns and sad cadences, the boy sang as if the words, as well as the music, were his own. Propitiatory, defiant; tearful, exultant; placid, agitated; his singing passed from emotion to emotion, rose and fell, while always the singer appeared sublimely unconscious of the surrounding worshippers."
When allegedly nine years old, but probably in late 1905 (the matrix nos. indicate mid-November), when actually eleven, he recorded six single-sided discs of sacred Hebrew music with organ accompaniment, which were produced by Zonophone for the east London firm of Abraham Lyon & Co., 156 Whitechapel Road, a fancy goods importer & talking machine factor.
Six titles were also issued in Feb. 1906 of the "nine"-year-old on Sterling cylinders (made by Russell Hunting Record Co. Ltd, 81 City Road, London, E.C. in conjunction with Abraham Lyon & Co.) They were nos. 4005: Hamavir Bonove / 4008: Reizei / 4009: Harahs Oilum / 4011: Vaichola / 4012: Ihroh Aineino / 4013: Kidusho / plus in May 1906 no. 4026: Der Jude (in Rumanian). (Based on release lists in The Phono Trader and Recorder & on Carter, Bayly & Andrews Sterling catalogue, 1975) There is some indication that the Sterling cylinders were recorded a couple of months before the London Zonophones.
Five titles were also released in the USA by Zonophone & Victor. A provisional listing is given below. The Zonophones were probably made about Feb. 1909 in New York at the end of a 20-week concert tour and issued in May 1909. The Victors were reissues in 1912/14. Zonophone 3073 (matrix 9424) = 50014 & Victor 65153 Washomru (Weshomru) Zonophone 3076 (matrix 9385) Mi Shebonukh (Skorbove) [See Pearl CD] Zonophone 3080 (matrix 9389) Kdushe [See Pearl CD] Zonophone 3081 (matrix 9391) = 50013 & Victor 65153 Yirav Eninu B'Adonoi Parlsvig (Iru Eineino) Zonophone 3082 (matrix 9426) = 50013 Adonoi Malech All items were recorded with organ accompaniment. (Based on R.K. Spottswood "Ethnic Music" 1990)
Mirsky won a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music in London in 1919 as a baritone and later became a Professor of Singing there. In 1922 he married Janet Alice (Jenny) Hyman (1883-1960); they had no children. He died aged 51 on 21 Aug. 1945 in Stanmore, west London. Possessor of a fabulous voice and technique, he is the earliest boy singer whose recordings are currently available on CD. BJP
Moses Mirsky This CD includes Hoschwiene (Hashkiveinu) (3' 07) - please see 78 rpm listing for details.
Here, and on Echoes of the Temple, the voice is vibrant, with masterly technique, exquisite ornamentation, exceptional breath control, expression to make stones weep, rich mellow tone either soft or with underlying steel, perfect unobtrusive vibrato giving colour to the voice. The singing is essentially declamatory but constantly relieved by variation in intensity. Warning: the recordings are very primitive and transferred here from worn copies. They are best listened to on headphones rather than on loudspeakers, which tend to emphasise the noisy surfaces.
(Zonophone X.102263 (10-inch), 78 RPM)
Moses Mirsky Adoino Moloch - The Lord has Ruled [Part 1 ?] (matrix 3086e)
This photograph of Moses was published in "The Jewish World" 3 February 1905.
(Zonophone X.102260 (10-inch), 78 RPM)
Moses Mirsky Adoino Moloch - The Lord has Ruled [Part 2 ?] (matrix 3087e)
The adjacent sketch portrait of Moses appeared in "The Birmingham Evening Despatch" for 29 July 1905, a few months before he made the English Zonophones.
(Zonophone X.102262 (10-inch), 78 RPM)
Moses Mirsky Hoschwiene (Hashkiveinu or Haschkiweino) - Return Us [Friday evening service "Cause us, O Lord our G-d, to lie down in peace, and raise us up, O our King, unto life."] (matrix 3088e) This item was issued on Pearl GEMMCD 9313 (Chazanim & Chazanut) (1988).
(Zonophone X.102259 (10-inch), 78 RPM)
Moses Mirsky Ihroh Aineino - Our Eyes should See (matrix 3084e)