Bit by Electronic Bit, a Cantor’s Voice Is Restored
He was called the Jewish Caruso. Indeed, fervent enthusiasts sometimes referred to Caruso as the Italian Yossele Rosenblatt.
Mr. Rosenblatt, who died in 1933, was regarded as the greatest cantor of his time. But his was a time when music was recorded on heavy shellac or celluloid 78 r.p.m. records. The quality of those recordings was never that faithful in the first place and wore away over the years.
Enter Mendel Werdyger, a lush-bearded 52-year-old Hasidic Jew who runs a record shop on 13th Avenue in Borough Park, Brooklyn. With no college degree and no professional training in sound engineering, Mr. Werdyger has used advanced audio restoration programs on the ordinary computer in his ragtag office to patiently clean away the crackles, hisses and other distortions on those creaky old 78s.
The result: three compact discs with Mr. Rosenblatt singing 35 tracks, including prayers and even a folk chestnut, “Mein Yiddishe Mama.” The first CD has sold 15,000 copies; the third was released a few weeks ago.
“It never sounded so clear,” said Bernard Beer, director of the Philip and Sarah Belz School of Jewish Music at Yeshiva University. “I was brought up with this music and I know those recordings from childhood, and I listened to it and I told my associate there’s no comparison to anything that was done before.”