Remembering Joseph Moskowitz
A while back Scott Rosenthal sent out an e-mail asking for information about his step-grandfather, Joseph Moskowitz. Famous for his cymbalom playing, he was born in Romania in 1879. He learned the play cymbalom from his father. He came to Boston, in the US, in 1908 to play a gig. After touring for five years, he opened up a restaurant on New York's Lower East Side. In 1943 he moved to Washington, DC, where he played at Michel's French Restaurant, on Vermont Ave., near Dupont Circle. He died on June 27, 1954, at George Washington University Hospital of a heart ailment. Most of this I know from Dick Spottswood's notes to a rerelease of several recordings by Moskowitz, on Rounder Records in 1996 (see below). And although most of us had no further information for Mr. Rosenthal, Scott persevered and was successful. I reprint here his e-mail, and append bits and pieces of other information, intending to provide a home for these materials until someone professional takes over and hosts the website that Joseph Moskowitz deserves. In the meantime, if you have information to contribute, please contact Mr. Rosenthal, or me, the better to make the material available.
A while back, I was contacted by you regarding my step-grandfather, "Uncle Joe" Moskowitz. I haven't forgotten your requests for photos and information. At the moment, I don't have a lot, but I do have a couple of photos that I am attaching with this e-mail. The photos of him with the cymbalom are when he was performing at Michel's restaurant in Washington DC in the later years of his life (Michel is the violin player in the photos). I also have one of him that was taken when he was much younger.
Also, I am told that there was a cymbalom player that succeeded Uncle Joe at Michel's by the name of Bela Szalai. I have an LP of Szalai's music (from the B&F Record Company), but I am told that he may still be around and that possibly he still performs occasionally in the Washington DC area - does anyone know anything about this? I would be interested in learning more about him.
Thanks for any information, and best regards!
Photo from YIVO website
Pete Rushefsky adds: I think there's a photo of him as a young man from Europe w/ a theatrical group on the YIVO website. To see it, go to:yivo1000towns.cjh.org/
go to "search catalogue". (you'll need to register) then do a search on "tsimbl*" (make sure you put in the asterisk after tsimbl)--- should be the second photo that shows up.
I think he's the handsome young man in the center. He was known to have been in a theater troupe with Moyshe the Blind (thanks to Horowitz/Rubin's translation of the Yiddish Theater Encyclopedia for this information).
Article in New York Times, Apr 26, 1908
Paul Gifford found this article from the NY Times dated April 26, 1908, "Champion Cymbalist is Playing Here Now"
A selection of recordings by Moscowitz were rereleased by Rounder Records in 1996. The CD notes also contain some brief notes by Dick Spottswood (who produced the recording) and Nicholas Blanton.
The Art of the Cymbalom
Rounder CD 1126, 1996
One Camp Street,
Cambridge, MA 021430