Reviews Klezmer concert has audience dancing in aisles By David Cleary
SPECIAL TO THE ENTERPRISE - Tuesday, March 7, 2005
Sunday's Brockton Symphony Chamber Series event at the War Memorial Building drew its inspiration from klezmer music.
For readers unfamiliar with this genre, klezmer music originated during the Middle Ages in the villages and ghettos of Jewish eastern Europe. It was spread widely by itinerant performers, who played it at festive occasions such as weddings and synagogue openings.
Klezmer music eventually reached the shores of the United States during the mid-19th century, quickly becoming a favorite of Jewish immigrant groups from that era. Changing tastes, as well as the pogroms of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, precipitated a significant decline in this music's dissemination . something that would not be reversed until the genre's concert stage revival during the 1980s.
Despite the music's distinctly Semitic flavor, it's a broad-minded idiom incorporating touches of Greek, Turkish, Slavonic, Arabic, and Gypsy fare.
Procedurally, it is similar to jazz, normally encompassing the statement of a melodic idea followed by improvised elaborations.
The concert's first half featured a recent classical work profusely covered with klezmer fingerprints, Osvaldo Golijov's "The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind." Written in 1994 and scored for clarinetist and string quartet, it was this composer's first significant success.
"Dreams and Prayers" amply demonstrates Golijov's creative strengths and weaknesses. On the plus side, it employs its instruments in cunning fashion, flush with highly idiomatic writing and imaginative textures.
Regrettably, the piece also lacks solid structural underpinning and unfolds in a less than cogent manner.
The performance, though, was riveting. Brockton Symphony music director Jonathan Cohler produced a fistful of clarinets, playing them with focused accuracy and keen passion. The Jupiter String Quartet (Nelson Lee and Megan Freivogel, violins, Elizabeth Freivogel, viola, and Daniel McDonough, cello) furnished well-executed, fervent camaraderie.
After intermission, however, came the real deal courtesy of Khevre, a six-piece klezmer ensemble whose members are students or recent graduates of Boston's New England Conservatory. Presenting a mix of traditional staples and telling new material penned by clarinetist Michael Winograd, Khevre wowed the appreciative audience with their spirited yet never forced playing .even going so far as to inspire dancing in the aisles and rhythmic clapping by enthusiastic listeners.
Of particular note was Dana Sandler's soulful singing, as authentic as matzo balls and chicken soup at a New York deli, as well as Winograd's splendidly liquid clarinet lines and Richie Barshay's remarkably imaginative percussion platform. Eylem Basaldi's violin tone often sounded steely, though she matched Winograd stride for stride as a convincing purveyor of nicely sculpted melody. Bassist Jorge Roeder and accordionist/pianist Carmen Staaf provided sturdy rhythm section support while sparkling in rare solo opportunities.
Thanks primarily to its inspired performers, this proved a most satisfying concert. After all, if you literally leave your audience dancing with delight, there's no doubt your afternoon's a success.
The Brockton Symphony Orchestra is recognized as Brockton's leading performing arts institution, one of the leading community symphony orchestras in Massachusetts, and one of the best regional orchestras in the country.