Klezmer star David Krakauer returns to Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival
May 16, 2012 3:42 PM
Clarinetist David Krakaur: "We are way out of a klezmer revival field and into a more interesting time with more potential for creativity."
By Andrew Druckenbrod Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
David Krakauer's clarinet playing is renowned; his appearance can be a bellwether.
In the eight-year history of the Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival, the klezmer maven has appeared twice, lending credibility to the concert series.
Reflecting on his return to perform in the festival's opening concerts Sunday and Monday, he says the festival has come into its own.
"A lot of Jewish music festivals focus on klezmer or Sephardic music," he says. "They are more genre-centered. But the Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival also includes classical music influenced by klezmer and other Jewish music."
Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival
Performers: Clarinetist David Krakauer and soprano Lara Bruckmann.
When and where: 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Temple Emanuel, Mt. Lebanon, and 7:30 p.m. Monday at Rodef Shalom Congregation, Shadyside.
Performers: Kosher Gospel Singers.
When and where: 7:30 p.m. May 31 at Temple Sinai, Squirrel Hill.
Performers: Ortner-Roberts Duo, Vince Giordano, Roger Humphries, Zohar Chamber Singers and HaZamir Pittsburgh.
When and where: 7:30 p.m. June 3 at the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh, Squirrel Hill.
That's certainly the case in the opening concerts of this year's festival and emphasized its theme, "Cultural Collaborations." The opening programs include "Ayre" by Osvaldo Golijov, the Argentinian whose formative years were influenced by classical, Jewish liturgical, klezmer music and "new" tango.
While Jewish musicians have played a central role in the history of classical music composition and performance, Jewish-themed (Judaic) classical music is less known today. That's something that festival founder Aron Zelkowicz has been working to address.
"The concerts also continue our long-term project of focusing on various composers who were members of the St. Petersburg Society for Jewish Folk Music (1908-1918)," says Mr. Zelkowicz. "We are capitalizing on Krakauer's brief residency to perform and record two staples of the Jewish classical sub genre -- the quintets for clarinet and strings called 'Jewish Sketches' by Alexander Krein." Well-known Pittsburgh composer David Stock's string quartet, "Suenos de Sefarad" -- "an artfully crafted medley of more familiar Sephardic songs," says Mr. Zelkowicz -- rounds out the program.
"The rest of the festival will go beyond traditional Eastern Europe to explore the multicultural threads woven through a diverse people not defined by 'race,' including American jazz and gospel," says Mr. Zelkowicz.
That's a differentiation that applies to Mr. Krakauer's career, as well. In the past decade, he has expanded from his early days in the seminal Klezmatics to "music that is more open, almost a third wave."
The centerpiece of time was Mr. Golijov's "The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind," recorded by the Kronos Quartet and Mr. Krakauer in 1996.
"That piece was a really important piece of Judaic classical that was really original," says Mr. Krakauer. "These kinds of collaborations are happening more and more with me that stray from traditional klezmer. We are way out of a klezmer revival field and into a more interesting time with more potential for creativity."
Mr. Krakauer performed "Dreams and Prayers" in the Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival's fourth year. This year, Mr. Golijov's "Ayre" takes a similar approach, exploring Christian, Arab and Jewish texts from 15th-century Spain. It comprises original songs and traditional melodies.
Of course, there's a political world of difference between the two compositions. "Ayre" alludes to the troubled and often tragic relationships today between and within these religions and cultures. It explores "how connected these cultures are and how terrible it is when they don't understand each other," says Mr. Golijov in notes to the work. "The grief that we are living in the world today has already happened for centuries, but somehow harmony was possible between these civilizations."
"I think people will sense that connection listening to it," says Mr. Krakauer. "It is always dangerous to be didactic in a work. The most powerful political music is that which is not overtly political, but you can feel the message. Beethoven symphonies were that way. In this piece the political message is interwoven in it, but you are not getting flags and slogans. It allows people to make up their own minds."