KLEZMER CONCERTOS AND ENCORES (Naxos Milken Archives: 8.559403)
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\KLEZMER CONCERTOS and ENCORES"
Robert Starer (1924-2002): Kli Zemer
Paul Schoenfield (b. 1947): Klezmer Rondos
Jacob Weinberg (1897-1956): The Maypole, Canzonetta
Abraham Ellstein (1907-1963): Chassidic Dance
Osvaldo Golijov (b. 1960): Rocketekya
The works on this recording by five 20th-century native-born and immigrant American-Jewish composers reflect the joyous character of the klezmer tradition.?á The term "klezmer" actually refers to the secular instrumental band that played for weddings and other festive occasions, as well as to the street musician, that flourished among eastern European Jewry, especially in the 19th and early 20th centuries.?á The form, instrumentation, and style of music played by klezmorim (plural) varied according to locale and time period and was heavily influenced by the tunes, modes and traditions of the host culture.
The post-1960s term "klezmer music" refers more specifically to the musical styles of 19th-century klezmorim whose recent rediscovery has attracted a wide audience.?á The musical influences associated with this style include Gypsy scales and modes, quasi-Hassidic songs and dances (relating to Hassidism--the popular mystical, ecstatic movement that swept eastern European Jewry from the 18th century on), marches, Romanian dances, and Yiddish folksong motifs.
The clarinet was one of the chief virtuoso solo instruments in many klezmer bands, but its virtual hegemony as the solo instrument most frequently identified with the typical timbres, flourishes and special effects of the klezmer style is probably more of a phenomenon of the American immigrant experience.?á Discussing his concerto, K'li zemer (from the Hebrew "instrument of song"), composer Robert Starer explained, "While all the thematic ideas are my own, they do lean toward the melodies of eastern European Jewish music, with which I have been familiar since my childhood in Vienna and my youth in Jerusalem."?á The work is in four movements bearing descriptive titles with corresponding moods: "Prayers," "Dances," "Melodies," and "Dedications." Throughout the piece, traditional and contemporary, meditative and ecstatic, folklike and improvisational elements are combined. David Krakauer is the featured soloist, both on the B-flat and the bass clarinet, with the Barcelona Symphony/National Orchestra of Catalonia conducted by Gerard Schwarz.?á
Paul Schoenfield's Klezmer Rondos was one of the first successful attempts to employ the eastern European klezmer idiom within a classical art music framework.?á Originally conceived for solo flute and small ensemble, it was revised and expanded for its New York Philharmonic premiere in 1995 to become a concerto for flute, tenor, and symphony orchestra.?á The instrumentation--a contemporary incarnation of a klezmer band--features clarinets, saxophones, brass, a battery of percussion, piano and strings.?á Despite the preponderance of the clarinet and the violin in the klezmer tradition, the flute often played a major solo role as well, and its use in Schoenfield's concerto points up certain idiomatic, piercing sonorities.?á The composer also pays homage to the historical role of the professional vocal merrymaker and general entertainer at Jewish weddings by including a part for solo tenor.?á Gerard Schwarz conducts the Seattle Symphony with Scott Goff, flute, and Alberto Mizrahi, tenor.
Rocketekya by Osvaldo Golijov was commissioned for the 20thanniversary of New York's Merkin Concert Hall, and written for clarinetist David Krakauer, violinist Alicia Svigals, electric violist Martha Mooke, and double bassist Pablo Aslan, who gave the premiere performance and are heard on this world premiere Milken Archive recording.?á The composer describes the work as a "shofar blasting inside a rocket-an ancient sound propelled towards the future.?á So that is Rocketekya: a shofar blasting its t'ki'a (one of its prescribed pattern calls) on a fantastical space voyage.?á In the middle of its journey, the rocket meets a Latin band in orbit."?á The work combines traditional klezmer band clarinet inflections and timbres with contemporary Latin rhythms and flavors and postmodern sensibilities.?á
Also heard on this Milken Archive disc are three "encore pieces" for clarinet and orchestra that combine typical klezmer sonorities and idioms with authentic Jewish folk material and Hassidic-type melodies.?á They include Canzonetta and The Maypole by Russian-born composer Jacob Weinberg, and Hassidic Dance by Abraham Ellstein, who was best known for his Yiddish Theater music and large-scale works.?á David Krakauer is the clarinetist with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin led by Gerard Schwarz.