Concert Review: Giora Feidman

Feidman, appeared to have matured into a real wizard of the clarinet, making it sing, whisper, whine and laugh.

Giora Feidman 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy Plaene Records)
Giora Feidman 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy Plaene Records)
Klezmer-music fans had a fortunate opportunity to hear and see clarinetist Giora Feidman at Vienna's Konzerthaus last month. He appeared there as part of the 34th International Music Festival, which this year mainly commemorates the 200th anniversary of Haydn's death. While the once-snobbish Viennese audience of bygone days used to look down on Jewish and Gypsy music, in present-day Vienna, klezmer music is appreciated for its rarity. This venue's Large Hall, one of the most prestigious ones in Vienna, was packed to full capacity. The program was a veritable melange of klezmer music - traditional tunes, pieces by Goldfaden, Gebirtig, Manger, and Gil Aldema, and Pigovat's "Jewish Wedding" - and Schubert, as an unavoidable homage to the host city. The performance was in collaboration with soprano Katja Beer, pianist Marina Baranova and the (Michel) Gershwin Quartet. Schubert's "Trout," on Feidman's clarinet, may well have felt like a displaced person, squeezed in between the "Kaddish" and "Reb Matenyu." The local audience, incorrigibly spoiled when it comes to Schubert, received it with a forgiving smile. Feidman, already a master clarinetist, appeared to have matured into a real wizard of the instrument, making it sing, whisper, whine and laugh, and infecting the audience with his contagious, though artistically controlled, enthusiasm. The commonly reserved audience responded by singing the tunes' refrains together with him when encouraged to do so. Applause was ecstatic, resulting in multiple curtain calls and encores, until Feidman at last waved a final "Goodbye." As for rarity, Feidman shared this distinction, at the same venue and in the same festival, with a revival production of Haydn's first oratorio, The Return of Tobias, which has not been performed for 200 years. This dramatic and emotional masterpiece was presented by the Austrian-Hungarian Philharmonic, conducted by Adam Fisher, with members from the younger generation of Europe's highly talented, undeservedly not-yet-world-famous singers, such as the disarmingly charming, lovely-sounding soprano Ana Maria Labin, the black-timbred, powerful bass Luca Pisaroni and the warm, caressing mezzo-soprano Annamaria Kovacs. One can only hope that the Israeli music establishments' noticing their existence will not remain a matter of wishful thinking.