SHTAYGER (Yid. "mode", "manner"), term designating the musical modes of a traditional Ashkenazi synagogue song, characterized by an order of intervals which is unusual in European music. The shtayger are named after the initial words of certain prayers sung to them, with some differences in nomenclature between East and West Ashkenazi communities. The number of these synagogue modes is difficult to determine if all their variants and tonal shades are taken into account. Investigators usually restrict themselves to the more frequent and important ones and number three (J. *Singer, 1886) or four (I. *Schwarz, 1894) principal shtayger. These were imagined as the Jewish parallel of the medieval European Church modes and are accordingly described in terms of octave scales. Later the increased knowledge of non-European modal structures, such as the maqāma or raga, gave the clue for understanding the true nature of the shtayger. First, their "scales" need not be an octave repeating itself through the whole gamut; their tonal range may extend over less or
Two shtayger are by far the most important in both the West and East Ashkenazi traditions: the "Ahavah Rabbah" and the "Adoshem Malakh" shtayger. The "Ahavah Rabbah," featuring an augmented second, is rather frequent in synagogue music as well as in folksong and ḥasidic melodies; it has also been used for the musical characterization of the Jewish nation by Mussorgsky, Anton *Rubinstein, and other composers. The "Adoshem Malakh" shtayger (named after Ps. 93:1) always appears in connection with its 10 to 12 standard motives, which are combined in various ways and variants. Less frequent are the "Magen Avot," which resembles natural minor, and the "Av ha-Raḥamim" shtayger, with its two augmented seconds (sometimes mistaken, by superficial observers, for the so-called Gipsy Scale).
The circle of traditional shtayger is not a closed system but extends to many variant forms, which are only occasionally or even rarely used. The Az be-Kol (Ra'ash)" shtayger, in former times also called by the hitherto unexplained name "Klavaner," may serve as an example of these secondary modes. In the free compositions of individual cantors, modulation from one shtayger to the other frequently occurs and contributes much to the expressive power of the East Ashkenazi singing style.
The use of shtayger melodies in art music raises some problems, especially when their harmonization is attempted. Some convincing solutions have been found, as when the solo tune is allowed to display itself before a background of sustained chords (e.g., L. *Lewandowski's "Ki ke-Shimkho" for cantor and choir).
H. Avenary, Yuval, 2 (1971), E. Werner, in: New Oxford History of Music, 1 (1957), 320–4; Z.Z. Idelsohn, in: HUCA, 14 (1939), 559–74; idem, in: A. Friedmann (ed.), Dem Andenken Eduard Birnbaums (1922), 62–69; J. Singer, Die Tonarten des traditionellen Synagogengesanges; Steiger… (1886; abstracted in A. Friedmann (ed.), op. cit., 90–100); E. Birnbaum, in: A. Friedmann (ed.), op. cit., 16f.; I. Schwarz, ibid., 198–206; P. Minkowski, in: Eisenstein, Yisrael, 4 (1907–13), 263; A. Friedmann, Der synagogale Gesang (19082), 87ff.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.