Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Play Klezmer!

Some years ago, Itzhak Perlman began to explore the range and power of klezmer music. He contacted several bands and began playing with them--a journey captured in a wonderful 1995 PBS documentary, "In the Fiddler's House."

Klezmer is a Yiddish-language equivalent of European gypsy music, an expression of folk idioms that stretch from the Baltic to the Black Sea, from the Middle Ages to contemporary Jewish life. Itzhak Perlman leaves his classical venues and journeys to the Lower East Side of New York City to the ghettos of Krakow, Poland to explore and participate in the ethos of klezmer, the chicken soup to the riffs and rhythmic formulas pervasive of the musical form. Much of the klezmer sound enjoys a distinctly Eastern Roumanian flavor. Replacing the folkish dulcimer with the violin, clarinet, bass, trombone, and bass drum and cymbals, the contemporary klezmer sound is distinctly festive, as evidenced by the opening shot of Jewish dancing and Perlmans' "auditioning" as a new klezmer band member. "If you think classical chamber has give-and-take, look at klezmer," quips Perlman.

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