European Klezmer Music
Smithsonian Folkways (

cd cover At the other end of the spectrum of today's klezmer "fusion" bands are folks who try to recreate the European sound and playing styles of the music, as performed before the age of recording. For klezmer that usually means no clarinet or brass. Violin is king.

As the mainstays of Khevrisa (Yiddish for "musical group"), Steven Greenman on violin and Zev Feldman on cymbalom present their conception of one variant of the old string bands. There is a good amount of creative conjecture in such a venture, and no claims are made by the participants. But whatever the accuracy, this album is filled with exceptional, heart-felt music.

The emphasis here is on the introspective, non-dance part of the wedding repertoire. Even the freylakhs are on the medium-slow side, though they crank up the energy and tempo on a couple of numbers. Khevrisa has found some non-commercial sources and interpreted previously unrecorded transcriptions.

Dr. Feldman, one of the academic experts on this music, supplies copious, exceptional notes, supplying more than you might want to know about the tunes and the style in which Khevrisa plays. It is an authoritative short course in klezmer.

Occasional second fiddles by Alicia Svigals and Michael Alpert, and the bass playing of Stuart Brotman fill out the all star group assembled for this recording, a healthy 70+ minutes of playing. - Stacy Phillips

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