|Abraham Zvi Idelsohn (1882-1938)
revolutionised the study of Jewish music, producing over
200 books and scholarly articles on the subject in
English, German, Hebrew & Yiddish. The best known
being "Jewish Music in its Historical
Development", "Jewish Liturgy and its
Development" and his magnum opus, the
"Thesaurus of Hebrew-Oriental Melodies."
Before Idelsohn, scholars were convinced that both the secular and temple music of ancient Israel had long since died out and all attempts at reconstructing them would prove fruitless. Sponsored by the Austrian Academy of Science in Vienna, Idelsohn travelled extensively around Yeman, Iraq, Iran and the whole Orient, collecting the songs of diaspora Jewish tribes - recording them on a phonograph and transcribing them into modern musical notation.
Many of these tribes had not worshipped together since the times of the kings and the similarity of their preserved chants bore witness to the songs' age. Idelsohn's work also revealed how the music of the early Church was founded on ancient Jewish melodies.
His recordings are currently being transcribed onto CD by the Vienna Phonogrammarchiv.