Klezmer Concertos and Encores makes the perfect companion piece to Naxos World’s recent release Klezmer—Café Jew Zoo . Two visions of Jewish music are presented on these divergent recordings. The former is part of a larger project undertaken by Naxos to release American Jewish Classical Music from the Milken Archive .
These pieces are not the kind of klezmer you're most likely familiar with. Composed by the top drawer of American Jewish or expatriate composers, all are warm with the familiar sounds and rhythms of Eastern European Hebraic culture. Foremost in these compositions is the use of the clarinet, performed on this collection capably by Julliard and Paris Conservatoire-trained David Krakauer, a foremost authority on the eastern European Klezmer genre. Also conspicuous is conductor Gerard Scharwz, principal conductor for the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Schwarz leads, in turn, the Seattle Symphony, Barcelona Symphony, and Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin for this recording.
All of the composers represented here are of the Twentieth Century; two of the five (Schoenfield and Golijov) are living. Austrian cum American Robert Starer offers four related pieces characterized by a plaintive and mournful temperament, captured perfectly by Krakauer on both standard and bass clarinet. The pieces are definitely of the show-stopping variety, displaying flights of compositional, orchestral, and instrumental virtuosity. Detroit composer Paul Schoenfield’s Klezmer Rondos display fun and a sense of humor. These pieces have previous been recorded in different performances on the Argo Label (Polygram) on the disc Four Parables; Vaudeville; Klezmer Rondos. They feel extroverted and exuberant where Starer’s are introverted and brooding. Scott Goff provides a looping flute obbligato that is both virtuosic and earthy. Jacob Weinberg provides the two shortest pieces, clarinet encores originally intended to be played solo. Loosely based on Jewish folksongs, "The Maypole" and "Canzonetta" are filled out orchestral by the composer and given the grand treatment by Krakauer.
Abraham Ellstein is the only native American of the bunch. His "Hassidic Dance" captures a stylized, romanticized Hassidism originally intended for gentile, not Jewish audiences. Imagine if Ravel had been Jewish, composing for his nephew’s bar mitzvah, then you will have the idea. The disc is rounded out with Osvaldo Golijov’s "Rocketekya." Argentinean by birth, Golijov grew up in that country’s vibrant Jewish community, absorbing Jew liturgical music and classical chamber music. He combines both in his "Rocketekya" commissioned for the 20th Anniversary of NYC’s Merkin Concert Hall. The piece was written for soloist David Krakauer, violinist Alicia Svigals, and electric violist Marth Mooke. The result is thoroughly modern and a bit avant-garde. Klezmer Concertos and Encores is a great start to what should prove to be an important addition to the American classical repertoire.
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