Galay was born in Argentina in 1945 and when he was twenty moved
to Israel. He graduated from Rubin Academy of Music in Tel Aviv
and later the University of Chicago. His music is deeply immersed
in Eastern European Jewish forms – klezmer principally, though
he’s worked on scores for the theatre and ballet as well as for
chamber forces. He continues to write quite prolifically and also
to chair organisations that promote literature and culture generally
His writing on this
disc is for clarinet and piano – it brings a formalised, classical
setting to a folkloric music. His written klezmer books consist
of eighteen pieces, as does this disc; and each one here bears
a dedication ‘far’ (in English ‘for’) someone or something. Most
are very brief – around the two-minute mark - and only one breaks
the four minute barrier. One of Galay’s favourite interpreters
is the clarinettist Michèle Gingras, the long-time Professor of
Clarinet at Miami University and she is well versed in the klezmatic
arts and takes the stage here with admirable aplomb.
The pieces range
from melancholy to vibrant, from reflective to voluble and most
stops in between. The notes incidentally refer to klezmer as
‘Jewish soul music’. Ugh. So let’s forget that embarrassment
– Marvin Gaye in a yarmulke anyone? – and get down to some descriptive
For Rivka has
a full complement of expressive curlicues, strong in the lower
register as much as in the piping, insistent upper one. It’s
good to see that Galay explores the lower register so consistently
and if he never becomes, as it were, ‘chalumeau blue’, then
this is a strong component of his writing. Farfel is
a sinuous lament and Fading does, cleverly, just what
is says, winding down just as one expects a cadential passage.
A snack is suitably jolly with cimbalon runs for the
piano – Galay doesn’t write too many of these so they are to
be savoured – whilst Forever! gives us some tense chording
to support a fluid and finely noble clarinet lyric. Lateness
is wistful and reflective and then the music seems to ratchet
up the tempestuous bar for the final furlong. A crooked story
is extrovert and stomping, For bride and groom is
duly celebratory and avuncular with excited figures throughout.
The final track has a brief guest appearance by Rabbi Tom Heyn.
It’s not an onerous gig for the Rabbi and he majors in oi
vaying for one minute seventeen.
We have here some
highly enjoyable and versatile music-making from the Gingras-Matson
duo. The songs are respectful, and certainly not stylised or
formalised out of recognition. Instead they marry classical
elements with klezmer ones with real success.