||Abraham Zvi Idelsohn (1882–1938), musicologist. Born in Filsberg (Felixberg), Lithuania, he received a thorough cantorial training and then continued his musical education at the Stern'sches Conservatorium in Berlin and the Leipzig Academy. In 1905 after having served for short periods as cantor in Leipzig and Regensburg, and in Johannesburg, South Africa, he settled in Jerusalem. There he worked as a cantor and music teacher, especially at the Hebrew Teachers' College. His confrontation with the, as yet small and partial, "ingathering of the exiles" in Jerusalem made him dedicate himself to the collection and study of their musical (and linguistic) heritage. In 1909 the Academy of Science in Vienna gave him a research grant and furnished him with a phonograph. The first volume of his monumental ten-volume Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies (which also appeared in Hebrew and German editions) was published in 1914 and was devoted to the Yemenite Jewish tradition; the last volume appeared in 1932. During World War I Idelsohn served as a bandmaster in the Turkish army in Gaza. In 1919 he resumed his work in Jerusalem. In 1924 he was engaged to catalog the Birnbaum Collection of Jewish Music at the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, and in the same year was the first to be appointed to the chair of Jewish Music there. He also lectured on Jewish liturgy. From 1930 onward his health began to fail and he was permanently incapacitated from 1934; he joined his family in Johannesburg in 1937 and died there.
Idelsohn is considered the founder of modern Jewish musicology and one of the pioneers of ethnomusicology. His field recordings on cylinders and discs (numbering over 1,000) are invaluable since they were made under conditions of cultural isolation which have since disappeared; their transcriptions and analyses brought the non-European communities into the conspectus of Jewish music, in which they were to play such an important part. He was the pioneer of comparative research in biblical cantillation and was also the first to attempt an integration of the historical records of music in Jewish culture, together with a synoptic view of the ethnic traditions, into a coherent view of the history of music among the Jewish people. Equally pioneering were his studies of the Near-Eastern maqam systems and of the elements common to the Jewish and Christian liturgical-music traditions. A colorful and magnetic personality, Idelsohn was passionately devoted to his subject and to revealing the musical expression of the Jewish people to the world, and discovering its underlying unity.
Idelsohn's most important publications in addition to the Thesaurus, include: Jewish Music in its Historical Development (1929, repr. 1968); Jewish Liturgy (1932, repr. 1968); Sefer ha-Shirim (vol. 1, 1913; vol. 2, 1922—the first Hebrew songbook published in Palestine), in Toledot ha-Neginah ha-Ivrit (vol. 1, 1924; vols. 2 and 3 remained in manuscript); The Ceremonies of Judaism (1929); Shirei Teiman (1930), an anthology of Yemenite poems, edited with N. H. Torczyner (Tur-Sinai); and over 100 scholarly articles. His compositions include the song Mishmar ha-Yarden (text: N. H. Imber) and others which were popular with the First and Second Aliyah; Yiftah, the first Palestinian opera (performed in Jerusalem and printed in 1922), in which he utilized the traditional material collected for the Thesaurus; and an unfinished opera Eliahu. The song Havah Nagilah was adapted by Idelsohn from a hasidic tune, and he also wrote its words (see his description in Thesaurus, vol. 9 (1932), p. xxii of the German edition). This volume was printed by Breitkopf & Hartel in Leipzig.