May 14, 2018
Klezmer, the folk music of the Ashkenazi Jewish community of Eastern Europe, was almost snuffed out by the Nazis, but survived and in recent years has enjoyed a revival. There are several practising klezmer bands and the music has influenced classical music in a whole range of ways, varying from the occasionally adoption of klezmer idioms, as did Mahler and Bloch, through pastiche compositions, to works which draw on the idiom for serious purposes. Some classical musicians have also dabbled in the idiom. It is characterized by expressive melodies, often using the Phrygian dominant mode, bent notes, swoops, slides and glissandi and also vigorous dance rhythms which become more and more excited.
Here we have four works, two of which are pastiche klezmer compositions, and two of which are more serious. Béla Kovács’ Sholem-alekhem, rov Feidman! is an absolutely characteristic introduction to the idiom, for clarinet and piano. Kovács is himself a clarinettist and wrote this as a tribute to another player. It begins with glissandi and trills on the clarinet and works up to a lively conclusion. Airat Ichmouratov’s One Day of an Almost Ordinary Life, a clarinet quintet, is similar but longer, beginning with a long clarinet solo then moving through a sequence of moods, some more cheerful, some graver, before reaching a climax.
The other two works are more serious. Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes is well-known, and usually treated light-heartedly. Here we have a surprisingly serious approach, slightly slower than usual and with greater expressive weight. I was impressed by this rethinking of a familiar work and liked it a good deal.
The longest work here, Golijov’s Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind, is already a modern classic – I make this at least the sixth recording. You can read an essay about it here. Like the Ichmouratov it is a clarinet quintet, but an intensely serious one, with a very distant relationship to Brahms’ clarinet quintet, with its evocation of gypsy music. It is in four movements. The first is meditative, sometimes calm and sometimes anguished. The second begins slowly but gradually turns into a dance. This is the most characteristically klezmer-inspired movement. The third is quiet and withdrawn but rises to a grinding climax. The fourth is an epilogue. I first heard this work in the recording by its creators, David Krakauer and Kronos quartet on Nonesuch. I also liked the performance by Todd Palmer and the St Lawrence string quartet on EMI, and I like this new performance too.
The clarinettist here, André Moisan, has a day job as bass clarinet and saxophone player for the Montreal symphony orchestra. He also works in different fields and here shows himself thoroughly at ease with the klezmer idiom. He plays a normal French-style clarinet but seems to me to produce the right klezmer sound with it. He also – though the sleevenote does not say so – occasionally turns to the bass clarinet for some of the deeper sounds we hear and possibly also to the C clarinet for some of the higher ones. He is very much the star turn here, but is well supported by the Quatuor Molinari and the pianist Jean Saulnier. The Prokofiev is the only work in which they all play.
The recording is clear and good, though no details are given. The sleeve note gives some basic information but is a bit shy of providing dates and the like. There is also a bonus work, available only digitally, Srul Irving Glick’s The klezmer wedding, which I have not heard. The Canada Music Fund should be thanked for their sponsorship. This is a thoroughly worthwhile disc.
Stephen Barber - MusicWeb International
October 30, 2017
Originating hundreds of year ago, the roots of klezmer, the instrumental party music of Ashkenazi Jewish communities, were enriched by contact with the music of the people of Central and Eastern Europe and beginning in the early 20th century, with jazz. The performance of klezmer music generally declined as the last century progressed. Beginning in the 1970s a grassroots revival spread out from its North American base, today’s klezmer scene (re)embraces the globe. Arab, Indian, Celtic and Korean musicians are getting in on the act. Earlier this year Amalia Rubin’s performance of a 1927 Yiddish song on Mongolian TV’s version of American Idol, accompanied by six Mongolian instrumentalists, garnered thousands of likes on social media.
Despite its transnational appeal, there are, however, essential features which distinguish klezmer music. Glissandi and syncopation that evoke laughter or sobs, ornamentation of the melody reflecting the inflections of the human voice, and melodies moving within the tonal modes of Central/Eastern Europe are just three. Emotional mood is also often sharply delineated, ranging from deep melancholy to dancing exuberance.
Classical concert composers have been attracted by klezmer’s vibrancy too. Five are represented in the very satisfying album Klezmer Dreams, including two Canadians, Srul Irving Glick (1934-2002) and Airat Ichmouratov (b.1973). Sergei Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes (1919) for clarinet, piano and string quartet is the oldest composition on this disc. Prokofiev retains the folkloric flavour of the Jewish melodies he borrowed while maintaining his idiosyncratic composer voice, this time rendered in a light tone. At over 35 minutes The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind (1994) for Klezmer clarinet and string quartet, by Argentinian- American composer Osvaldo Golijov (b.1960), is by far the longest and stylistically most adventurous score here. It features the brilliant and stylistically spot-on Klezmorim clarinet solos of Montrealer André Moisan. Starting and ending with a prayer, “Thou pass and record, count and visit, every living soul, appointing the measure of every creature’s life and decreeing its destiny,” this substantial work definitively demonstrates the reach of klezmer – once considered folk party music – deep into the concert hall.
Andrew Timar - The WholeNote
September 25, 2017
À l'émission Medium Large, Françoise Davoine commente Klezmer Dreams, le nouvel album d'André Moisan et Jean Saulnier, accompagnés par le Quatuor Molinari, cliquez sur ce lien pour écouter la chronique: http://bit.ly/2xvo5Fk
Le Journal de Montréal
September 13, 2017
When a Magician Delights us…
Although albums seem to lose ground, fall 2017 might hold many surprises. Whether in jazz or classical music, many musicians work incredibly hard, just like clarinetist and saxophonist André Moisan.
André Moisan -who celebrates 40 years of career-, is, without a shade of a doubt, one of the big names in his field. In addition to being internationally acclaimed soloist, clarinets and solo saxophone at the Symphony Orchestra of Montreal as well as an instructor at the Faculty of Music of the University of Montreal, he has partaken in many musical adventures, with, for instance, organist Jean-Willy Kunz and his great alma mater orchestra to perform the timeless Petite Fleur.
A dream as old as the Earth
Before you purchase this album –either physically or digitally- make sure you listen to the beauty which emanates from the music played by the instrumentalists. Like archeologists, André Moisan and his colleagues (pianist Jean Saulnier and Molinari Quartet), start with the very beginning, by reviving Klezmer, with a touch of modernity. Take the time to listen and grasp all the beauty, the power of the arrangements and the intricacy of the musical technique. Believe me, this album is to music what haute couture is to Yves St-Laurent, and yet, it is accessible to anyone. It’s all about the ambiance. We can feel the message as well as the subtle work which allow us to discover Bela Kovacks (1937), Osvaldo Golijov (and his moving composition for clarinet and strings quartet), and, of course, One Day of an Almost Ordinary Life of Montreal composer Airat Ichmouratov.
Christophe Rodriguez - Le Journal de Montréal