Josef Gottbeter & Froim Spektor, Min-hameitzar (I called upon the Lord)

Josef Gottebeter (1877–1942) and Froim Spektor (1888–1948) worked together at the Grand Choral Synagogue, Rostov-on-Don, as (respectively) organist–choirmaster and Cantor during Spektor tenure in the post (1915–28). The precise date of composition for Min-hameitzar is unknown, but it was most likely composed prior to 1928, the year that Spektor departed Russia for South Africa, having been appointed Cantor at the New Hebrew Congregation (Roeland Street synagogue), a post he held until 1934.

The manuscript score was notated by Spektor in one of the music notebooks that ultimately ended up among the papers of Cantor Morris Katzin (1902–74). Unlike most of the compositions in the notebooks, the attribution at the start of Min-hameitzar is ambiguous. It is possible that this substantial piece is entirely by Gottbeter, which would be consistent with the other works in this part of the relevant notebook. However, Spektor’s normal practice was to specify where Gottbeter’s sole contribution had been the organ accompaniment, in which case Spektor himself is given as composer. This is not the case for Min-hameitzar. Nevertheless, the most likely case is that Spektor composed most of the work, with Gottbeter (an accomplished organist) providing the accompaniment.

Whether Katzin inherited these notebooks from Spektor or transported them to South Africa himself is uncertain. However, the two were close friends during their Cape Town years, and it seems likely that they regularly exchange musical materials between them.

Whilst Spektor left Russia and avoided encountering the horrors of the Holocaust in person, Gottbeter’s fate was tragic. After the German attack on Russia in 1941, he was evacuated to Kislovodsk in 1942 with his wife and daughter, where they were almost certainly murdered by the Nazis.

Gottbeter-Spektor, Min_Hammeitzar_2 Feb 2017