Brave Old World - Dus Gezang fin Geto Lodzh
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Brave Old World
Dus Gezang fin Geto Lodzh - Song of the Lodz Ghetto
Winter and Winter

This song cycle of music from the Nazi ghetto in Lodz, Poland has all the sweep and emotional range of an opera. Many of the songs here were collected by ethnomusicologist Gila Flam in Israel and the United States from survivors of the ghetto. Seasoned klezmer group Brave Old World has arranged these and their own compositions into a cohesive story that takes us on a journey from past to present. The darkly ironic humor and heart wrenching pathos that so characterize klezmer are here in spades. The songs are sung in Yiddish, with English, German, and Hebrew translations in the notes.

The centerpiece is Michael Alpert's anguished vocals. Though not an instrument of enormous power or pitch range, his voice packs an emotional punch. Sharing the spotlight is Kurt Bjorling's creamy clarinet. Stuart Brotman's work on strings is subtle and warm. Allan Bern's muscular piano underscores it all and urges it forward.

The disc opens with an ethnographic recording of Ya'akov Rotenberg singing "Rumkovski Khayim." Brotman enters on violin over the fade out, playing at first scratchily and pensively, then picking up a little courage toward the end. Bern shows a Keith Jarrett influence in his rhapsodic solo, "Lodzh-overtur," which segues into the oom-pah bass and clarinet of "A really fine Mazltov." On the deeply sarcastic "There goes a yeke (German Jew)," we hear a mock-pompous quote from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Alpert's composition "Berlin 1990," has a wistful mix of hope and regret, further punctuated by the bass clarinet, piano, and bass instrumental, "Lodzh-Coda." The final track, "Bobover khupe-marsh" just oozes sorrow. But before it fades out, we hear a reprise of "Rumkovski Khayim," this time with more bitterly ironic lyrics. Song of the Lodz Ghetto is an emotionally draining but ultimately rewarding listen. - Peggy Latkovich

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