The development of Klezmer as a prominent component
of many styles of music continues with this enterprising and well-executed
Up to the beginning of the Second World War,
a simple description of Klezmer might have been “the East
European based Jewish Folk music”. Since the post-Holocaust
revival of Jewish culture generally, Klezmer has emerged both
as an important ‘world music’ and as an ingredient
in modern fusions. For example, Hungarian gypsy fiddler Roby Lakatos
often works with Klezmer musicians while for the band Zum, Klezmer
integrates naturally into the mix of Argentinian tango, jazz and
East European folk.
On this CD, we find a sort of modern concerto
grosso; Kleztory provide the soloistic ripieno group against the
concertino backing of I Musici de Montréal. On its own
terms, the combination is very successful. The arrangements are
interesting and varied and a natural balance between soloists
and orchestra is achieved. Most importantly, the essence of Klezmer
(as best I can feel it, not being Jewish and without long experience
of the music), is frequently well caught.
For example, in “Dem Trisker rebbins chosid”
(track 9), a sliding violin squeezes out a slow-walking dance;
there is a gravity where the melancholy seems to set up a defence
mechanism somehow analogous to Woody Allen’s self-deprecating
humour. And in the following track, “Going Home”,
the yearning vocal quality of the clarinet goes to the heart of
the emotion (no joyful homecoming here). One might have thought
that the orchestral sound might have worked against the prevailing
mood and provided some consolation but no; I was reminded of the
disquieting string sounds of Peter Sculthorpe. Incidentally, the
background of this track’s arranger, Henri Oppenheim, illustrates
just how wide-ranging are many modern musicians. He came to the
accordion through studies in drumming and guitar and includes
electro-acoustic music as well as Klezmer amongst his compositions.
My own assessment of this CD is very favourable
but some people might raise objections in principle. Does Klezmer,
which in its folkloric form is a raw style of music, expressing
basic feelings, sometimes of celebration but more often of pain
and sadness, lose its spirit by being subjected to this treatment?
What value does the orchestra add?
As I have already said, I do think that the fundamental
spirit of Klezmer survives intact. Whatever the marketing ambitions
behind the CD, the sincerity of both groups of musicians shines
through and the arrangements are sensitively done. I am aware
that I speak as one from a classical background but I am very
happy with the purely musical result. The use of the string orchestra
seems to me perfectly valid. It adds up to a different musical
experience. After all, Klezmer is by no means an isolated music.
The influence of Arabic scales and instrumentation is often evident
and the rhythm of the tango turns up more often than one might
I can make a clear recommendation for this CD
but I urge listeners to try Klezmer in its other forms (Giora
Feidman, the doyen of Klezmer clarinet, Lakatos as above, the
Klezmatics in a rock fusion and perhaps Kleztory themselves; there
are many others).
Listen, enjoy, move on!