Over fifty years, Victor Tunkel built up one of the largest Jewish Music collections in Europe. The 1400 items are broadly divided between musicology monographs and sheet music, supported by key reference material and fascinating rarities. The musicology texts explore the history, development and personalities of Jewish music and its intersection with Jewish law, prayer and identity. The sheet music supplies the melodies and lyrics in Hebrew, English, Ladino, Yiddish, from synagogue, nursery, campfire and radio. The collection is fully catalogued and searchable on the LBC Library Catalogue and open to the all by appointment.

Sheet Music

The great strength of the collection is in liturgical music: cantorial, choral, instrumental. The synagogue music of many former town communities of France, Germany, Italy and Eastern Europe is well represented from the baroque onwards. Anglo-Jewish synagogue composers include Mombach, Salaman, Wasserzug, Saqui, Hast and Alman, as well as their American contemporaries. Sephardic liturgy from De Sola & Aguilar and Lowit & Bauer to the Levi 10-volume Antologia is strongly supported as is published music of Mizrachi Jews: Caucasus, Yemen, Iraq, etc. There is also folk music in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino and other languages, many song collections and individual published songs, klezmer and instrumental music, children’s music, modern Israeli songs and some operettas and oratorios on Jewish themes.

Highlights

Musicology

The collection’s texts explore history and ideas about Jewish music from the archaeology of instruments to the music of Soviet Jewry, from kabbalah to cantillation, from composer’s memoirs to comparative musicology. Reference texts include the RISM catalogue of all known Hebrew music manuscripts before 1840, Sendrey and Heskes bibliographies and Idelsohn’s histories, anthologies and thesaurus. Conference proceedings, unpublished research and pamphlets enrich the collection alongside key journal runs including Musica Judaica, Journal of Synagogue Music, Journal of Jewish Music and Liturgy, Duchan, Tatzlil and Di Hazonim Velt.

Victor Tunkel

 

Victor Tunkel, portrait by Esther Gross

Victor Tunkel, who passed away in 2019, had a lifelong love of Jewish music. In the choir at Hendon Synagogue as a boy, in the Habonim choir as a youth and a founding and longstanding member of the Zemel choir, in the 1960s he began to collect sheet music that captured the synagogue melodies he loved. His interest and knowledge grew and he would spend over 50 years creating one of the largest private collections of Jewish music in Europe. As popular and scholarly interest in Jewish music grew the collection became a unique resource for those trying to track down a rare score or explore a particular community’s musical traditions.  Alongside his professional work as a lawyer, Victor developed and presented a number of lecture-concerts and wrote, spoke and corresponded on a variety of musical questions and composers. His own special interest was biblical cantillation and his book The Music of the Hebrew Bible and the Western Ashkenazic Chant Tradition is a key work on the topic.