Cantor Naftali Herstik, Chief Cantor of the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem, was born in Salgótarján, Hungary, and emigrated with his family to Israel at the age of three. Descended from a long line of cantors, he showed early talent as a boy chorister and cantorial soloist. He first studied with his father, then with such other noted cantors as Leib Glantz, Shlomo Ravitz, and Moshe Koussevitzky, and he completed his education at the Royal College of Music in London, where he subsequently served for a number of years as cantor of the Finchley Synagogue. Acclaimed for the refinement and elegance he brings to cantorial art and to prayer, Cantor Herstik has also sung in concert with the London Festival Orchestra, the London Mozart Players, the Jerusalem and Prague symphony orchestras, the Israel Philharmonic and Zurich Chamber orchestras, and many internationally noted choirs. His two historical recordings with Israel’s Rinat Choir, documenting the synagogue musical traditions of the former German cities of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia) and Danzig (now Gda’nsk, Poland), were critically praised for their artistry and authenticity. His recording Prayers from Jerusalem, with the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra (Czech Republic) conducted by Elli Jaffe, was described by the Jerusalem Post as displaying a “golden voice [that] reaches directly to our heart,” giving the feeling of “sitting in a synagogue and being part of a communal prayer in which the cantor transmits the feelings of the individual to God.” In 1998 in London, Cantor Herstik sang the lead cantorial solo in Vanished Voices, an oratorio created and conducted by Neil Levin to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Reichskristallnacht; and in 1991 he was the principal soloist at a London concert commemorating Salomon Sulzer (the architect of modern cantorial art), with Levin conducting the English Chamber Choir in the inaugural event of the seven-city international Sulzer Congress, “A Voice for Our Time.” Herstik is also a dedicated teacher of hazzanut at Israel’s principal cantorial school.
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