Max Stein (tenor) and friends

Perth Synagogue

reviewed by Neville Cohn


Cantorial recitals are few and far between in Perth so it was hardly surprising that Max Stein’s recital drew a big audience. Stein, Sydney-born and currently serving as cantor at Beth Tzedek Synagogue, Calgary – the largest of its kind in western Canada – has trained in both Israel and the USA where, inter alia, he attended master classes at New York’s famed Juilliard School of Music. Heredity is as significant a factor in Stein’s musical development as environment, his grandfather having studied with Cantor Leopold Weinstein in Yugoslvia.

Stein devoted most of his program to established cantorial repertoire; his account of Oseh Shalom was a model of its kind, producing, as he did, a stream of pure and unforced sound with impeccable diction and a near-faultlessly sustained concluding falsetto note. But here – and throughout – one wondered why there was a resort to electronic amplification. Stein’s voice is a remarkable instrument that is capable of generating considerable power which surely would have been more than ample to reach the furthest corners of the venue without artificial boosting.

Stein’s account of Lecha Dodi, that jubilant greeting of the Sabbath Queen, was particularly agreeable, here offered in a number of settings that even including an adaptation to the melody of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma! And there was more novel treatment of standard repertoire in a medley of Broadway hit melodies sung in Hebrew. I imagine there would have been more than a few damp eyes among a capacity audience listening to the soloist in Parrish and Elston’s Mamele, that touching tribute to the archetypal Yiddishe mama.

Not the least of the evening’s pleasures was Stein’s good-humoured linking commentary.

Rosenblatt’s Ve’af Hu was a highlight with Stein and Anthony Gordon (who also presided over the Perth Jewish Male Choir) singing in duo. There was fine ensemble and blend of tone here with Gaby Gunders, at an electronic keyboard, providing commendable rhythmic underpinning.

The recently established PMVJC brought enthusiasm and energy to its task here as well as in its alert responses to Alter’s Retzei. Certainly, the choir’s collective sense of commitment was undeniable. I dare say that under Gordon’s direction, the PMVJC will develop greater precision of intonation which had a tendency to waver, most particularly so in Kol Nidre.

A varied and generous program included contributions by a smartly turned out Carmel School Choir with Stuart Rhine Davis and David Goldfinch alternating as conductor and accompanist.

Copyright 2005 Neville Cohn

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