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KLEZMER – Première Recordings
Traditional Vi bist du gevezn far prohibition* 3:19; Kolomeke* 2:36; Moldavian Hora* 4:30; Zol zayn gelebt† 3:11; Ma Yofus/Odessa Bulgar† 7:04 (Guest appearance by David Sela); Firen di Mehutonim Aheym† 4:20; Freylekh Yidelakh* 3:26; Di Zilberne Khasene† 4:05; Dem Trisker rebbins chosid* 4:38; Dem rebin's Nigun, Oy Tate† 3:37; Violin Doina‡ 6:39; Fun Tashlikh* 6:42; Tears of Israel* 5:37
H. OPPENHEIM/A. LEGAULT Going Home† 3:58
H. OPPENHEIM Omer Tantz† 4:22Dedicated to/À Omer Sami Çosar Kleztory: Airat Ichmourato(clarinet); Alain Legault (guitar); Elvira Misbakhova (violin); Mark Peetsma (double bass); Henri Oppenheim (accordion) I Musici de Montréal/Yuli Turovsky rec. 18-19 Sept 2003, L’Église de la Nativité de la Sainte Vierge, La Prairie, Quebec. DSD CHANDOS CHAN 10181 [69'24]

The development of Klezmer as a prominent component of many styles of music continues with this enterprising and well-executed fusion.

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 expect!

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!

Roger Blackburn

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