Julius (“Israel”) Mombach (1813–1880) was born in Pfungstadt, Germany, the son of the cantor Lazarus Mombach. He must have been talented musically, and he must have been ambitious. At the age of 14 he was brought to London to serve as a meshorer (a boy soprano) in the Great Synagogue at Duke’s Place to sing simple harmonies with the newly appointed cantor Enoch Eliasson, who had also just arrived from Germany. Soon the Jews of London were clamoring for a real choir—like the one Salomon Sulzer had established in Vienna. However, London’s Chief Rabbi, Solomon Hirschell, expressly forbade the use of sheet music, which he dismissed as a mere "book of strokes." It wasn’t until Rabbi Hirschell’s death in 1840 that modern choral singing was allowed at London’s Great Synagogue. Julius Mombach was now elevated from meshorer to Choir Master, a post he would hold until his death forty years later. Mombach not only conducted, he also arranged and composed music for his new choir. Mombach’s music was unpublished in his lifetime, but appeared in 1881 in a collection edited by Rev. M. Keizer; this is our only source for the compositions.
Mombach’s style is not different from that of the anthems of his age. A good example is his setting of Psalm 150, composed for the celebration of the marriage of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild & Miss Evalina de Rothschild in 1865. The music stays within the initial key of B-flat with brief excursions to the relative minor. The texture is largely homophonic, with some contrasting eighth-note movement in the organ. A brief fugal section begins at measure 17.
Listen to Mombach’s Hallelujah: https://youtu.be/CZUIi6k5f-4?t=677.
Julius Mombach—original publication
Mombach, Julius. Naʻim Zemirot Yisraʼel: The sacred musical compositions of the late Israel Lazarus Mombach containing the services for Sabbaths and festivals, New Year and Day of Atonement, consecration hymns, psalms and choral wedding service / ed. by M. Keizer. London: B. Williams, 1881.
The “Majesty of Holiness” programs, featuring the Zamir Chorale of Boston, can be accessed through YouTube using the following links:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVVSiHtBK-g (Divine Majesty)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZUIi6k5f-4 (The Majesty of Hallel)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-6gPDJ6qlk (Masterworks of Majesty)