The identity of C. Attenhofer has not been determined. There was a Swiss composer and choral conductor by the name of Carl Attenhofer (1837–1914), who from the late 1860s on was well known in German-speaking Switzerland. Based in Zurich beginning in 1870, he was director of music at the university there as well as codirector, or second director, of the local conservatory. Although he wrote a substantial amount of chamber music, his primary recognition came from his church and other vocal music—especially his pieces for male voices, which have retained popularity in Switzerland. There is no indication yet discovered, however, that he ever came to America, and no evidence has been found that would point to any involvement in synagogue music. Whether this Carl Attenhofer is the same individual whose setting of “May the Words of My Mouth” (the English adaptation of the prayer text, yih’yu l’ratzon) was included by Max Spicker and William Sparger in their 1901 collection, The Synagogal Service, cannot be known at the present time. It can only be floated as one of multiple possibilities that either Spicker or Sparger, or both, might have been familiar with some of this Swiss Carl Attenhofer’s church music—either from European sources or perhaps from church music available at that time in America. The English text is suitable for Christian worship as well as synagogue use. Without further research, however, there is nothing concrete to support such a conjecture, even as an educated guess. The ‘C. Attenhofer’ whose music was included not only by Spicker and Sparger, but in a few other collections for American Reform worship as well, is just as likely to have been entirely unrelated to the Swiss composer.
By: Neil W. Levin