Giora Feidman 88 224.
(photo credit: Courtesy Plaene Records)
The organizers of the very first event dedicated to Jewish and Israeli music held in Austria obviously did their homework.
Over the two days (Sep 13 and 14), thousands of Viennese, along with visitors from further afield, were enthralled and captivated by an eclectic and bespangled line-up including 72-year-old klezmer megastar, clarinetist and raconteur extraordinaire Giora Feidman; evergreen singer-songwriter Hava Alberstein; high-energy jazz bassist Avishai Cohen; and top world-music artist Idan Raichel. The Spot On: Jiddischkeit Festival had plenty of our musical bases covered.
Feidman was probably the hit of the entire shebang. The 1,800-seat majestically appointed main hall was packed to the rafters, with a clutch of VIPs including local Israeli ambassador Dan Ashbel and several members of the Vienna elite in tow. The clarinetist and his trio regaled the audience with a well oiled mix of deftly performed klezmer numbers, stand-up comedy and even some community singing.
It was quite something to witness the entire body of paying customers sing the chorus to "Donna Donna" and, presumably, the Israeli and Jewish ticket holders join in on "Jerusalem of Gold."
While here such an endeavor may be considered by some as pure kitsch, in Vienna it was highly emotive.
Meanwhile, Alberstein was not far behind Feidman in the popularity stakes. Accompanied by percussionist Avi Agababa and guitarist Oved Efrat, sexagenarian Alberstein did the country a great service by running through an enchanting program of Israeli and Yiddish numbers, prefaced by colorful and commensurately enlightening explanations.
Paris-based jazz pianist Yaron Herman impressed with an electrifying solo concert while, as to be expected, Cohen and Raichel - the latter's Ethiopian-Israeli vocalists Cabra Casay and Ravid Hakalani, and kamanche (spike violin) player Mark Elyahu, shone particularly brightly - had the house rocking.
The cantorial concert was somewhat disappointing but it was still a moving experience to see such a mixture of people, the majority of whom were not Jewish, in attendance.
Watch this space for more of where this came from in the Austrian capital.
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