New vistas for a traditional favorite

The Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance inaugurates its klezmer institute with a rare appearance by Giora Feidman.

Giora Feidman 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Giora Feidman 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Giora Feidman is a busy man which, considering he is the world’s most acclaimed proponent of klezmer music, is hardly surprising. The 74-year-old Argentinean-born musician spends so much of his time traversing the globe to perform on the world’s grandest stages, that he doesn’t have much room left in his diary to give concerts here.
On October 9 Feidman will make a rare appearance at the Tel Aviv Museum to mark the launch of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance’s (JAMD) new klezmer music chair. The new academic endeavor is a pioneering move in a genre that is normally associated with providing the jolly musical backdrop for shaking a leg or two at weddings and other festive occasions. But the academy is taking the klezmer very seriously.
“We are proud to be the first in Israel and the world to lead an academic educational institution devoted to klezmer music,” says JAMD president Prof. Ilan Schul.
“Through performance, teaching and research, we will nurture and further this unique music, which has such a strong significance for the Jewish people.”
The JAMD could not have made a better choice of performing artist for the inaugural event. Feidman is acclaimed around the world for his mastery of klezmer music and his peerless instrumental skills. He made aliya from Argentina in 1957 and walked straight into a berth with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO), becoming the orchestra’s youngest clarinetist. His global profile was pushed up a couple of more notches when Steven Spielberg invited him to play the clarinet solos for the soundtrack of Schindler’s List, which won seven Academy Awards.
Feidman also has some personal experience of initiating new academic and musical projects as the founder of the “Clarinet and Klezmer in the Galilee” seminar and master class program, which takes place every year in Safed.
During the course of the last half century, Feidman has put out dozens of superlative recordings with top klezmer troupes and classical ensembles alike. Last year, for example, he released the Klezmer & Strings album, recorded with the Gershwin Quartet, which offers a beguiling mix of mostly klezmer-oriented classical works, as well as a work transcripted by Feidman’s wife, composer-cellist Ora Bat Chaim.
Characteristically for Feidman, there is also an expansive foray into other domains, including a joyously energized medley of George Gershwin numbers and a taste of Argentinean nuevo tango composer Astor Piazzolla. All of that is a reflection of the organic synthesis of cultural and musical influences that flow through Feidman. Indeed the JAMD, on so many counts, went for broke by opting for Feidman as their featured gala concert artist.
Besides his polished stage and studio work, Feidman embraces many musical avenues, all of which flow seamlessly through his klezmercolored output. This allencompassing approach, teamed with his dynamic personality and captivating storytelling skills, has helped Feidman get the klezmer message out there, across the world, and has opened up new artistic vistas within the genre, as well as tapping into new consumer areas.
The new JAMD chair will, no doubt, benefit from that ethos – as will the audience on October 9.
The Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance’s klezmer seat inaugural concert will take place at the Tel Aviv Museum at 9 p.m. on October 9. For ticket information: Castel at *8965.