This is an amazing recording. It will leave you drained of emotion and speechless with admiration. Osvaldo Golijov was born in Argentina in 1960. His Eastern Jewish family played and listened to music from classical to klezmer and tango. He lived briefly in Jerusalem, absorbing the musical traditions there, and came to America in 1986. His works encompass all the styles he has been exposed to, but except for "Last Round," a "sublimated tango" part raucous, part mournful (and written in homage to Piazzolla), this program represents Golijov's Jewish roots.
"Lullaby and Doina" incorporates Jewish and Gypsy themes, part slow and sad, part wild and motoric, with a radiant violin solo soaring above the woodwinds. "Yiddishbbuk," written for the St. Lawrence Quartet on Tanglewood's Fromm Commission, is inspired by a line from an apocryphal psalm: "No one sings as purely as those who are in the deepest hell...." Its first movement commemorates three children who perished in the Nazi concentration camp Terezin. Golijov evokes their anguish in music that is by turns wild, raucous, slashing, mysterious, eerie, and always heart-rending. Tremolos flutter up above aching dissonances, alternating with organlike, sustained chords; slides and crashes sound like strangled death cries. Isaac the Blind was a famous kabbalist rabbi and mystic. His "Dreams and Prayers," scored for string quartet and clarinet, are depicted in music that is calm, mysterious, meditative, and devout, but intermittently breaks into traditional dance tunes, and builds up to several tremendous climaxes. The clarinet speaks, sings, sobs, screams, and prays in true klezmer style. The playing is fabulous, the total effect mesmerizing, but the real miracle is that this young Canadian quartet and American clarinetist can identify so completely with a culture surely worlds away from their own. --Edith Eisler