David Krakauer, a classically trained clarinettist with degrees from the Juilliard School of Music in New York, has devoted much of his adult life to the art of klezmer. Krakauer had his first encounter with klezmer music in 1980, when he heard the Eastern European Jewish klezmer master Dave Tarras play live. “Although he was already quite old and technically not so precise,” David recalled his playing, “he created a sound that sent a shiver down my spine. It was totally unforgettable!”
For centuries, klezmer music was the standard music of Ashkenazi Jews
in Eastern Europe and was played at all weddings and celebrations.
Klezmer music incorporates many ideas from Greek, Balkan, Eastern
European and Roma folk music and it is dance music, made for dancing
while holding hands or with a partner. Krakauer explains that it is the
influence of cantorial synagogue music that sets klezmer music apart
from other forms of folk music. “In particular the ornament called krechts,
a sob or squeeze in Yiddish, is a sound that makes klezmer immediately
recognisable. The is produced by playing little ghosted notes between
the main notes. This gives the illusion of the emotional catch in the
voice reminiscent of the plaintive supplication found in cantorial
singing.” The klezmer style strives to replicate the human voice – the
cries, laughs and wails of humanity.
Scores of Eastern European Jews immigrated to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and they brought klezmer music with them. Klezmer music flourished in Jewish circles in the early 20th century, as did Yiddish theatre and the art of Jewish Cantor song. Klezmer music in the United States began to draw influence from American music, especially jazz. David Krakauer also played jazz as a teenager, and he cites his first great musical influence as Sidney Bechet, the great New Orleans jazz clarinettist. “Hearing his music lead me to a great love of jazz in general, and more specifically to a deep reverence for the tremendous individuality of artists such as Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and the great Duke Ellington. When I started to play klezmer, I was able to weave these influences, in conjunction with Avant-garde classical and jazz sounds, into ‘traditional’ klezmer to create my own personal style of improvising.”
The children of these turn-of-the-century immigrants, however, began to assimilate into American culture and by the 1960s, interest in klezmer music had largely died out. Then, in the 1970s, the first klezmer revival began in the United States, led by soloists such as Giora Feidman and bands such as The Klezmorim. These musicians attempted to accurately recreate klezmer music from the early 20th century from old recordings and surviving klezmer musicians in the United States.
While working in New York as a classical musician, Krakauer began experimenting with klezmer music as the second klezmer revival began in the 1980s. In the late 1980s, Krakauer joined The Klezmatics, with whom he toured around the world. Bands like the Klezmatics put their own personal stamp on the music of earlier generations. “When I played with the Klezmatics, it was not about re-performing old songs. We had amplifiers, we were loud and we had an attitude almost like a punk band,” Krakauer said in an interview with Radio Berlin-Brandenburg in 2011. Klezmer music gained many non-Jewish fans in both the United States and Europe. In his early days with the Klezmatics, the band travelled to Berlin. The experience was incredible. “Suddenly, we were at this Festival in Berlin. We played in front of thousands of young Berliners and they were all partying, and I thought, It’s different here.” In talking to people throughout Europe while on tour, Krakauer has found that people are moved to see the evolution of a European music that came from Eastern Europe to America and then returned to Europe, transformed by the American experience. Over the past two decades, klezmer has also become a statement of support for multiculturalism in Europe. “Jews before the Second World War were the multicultural Europeans. Playing Jewish klezmer music seems to be a pro-multicultural, pro-humanistic political act without ever being didactic or waving a flag,” says Krakauer.
Composers have recently also succumbed to klezmer’s appeal. David Krakauer is now a highly sought-after soloist and chamber musician and has demonstrated his wealth of experience in classical and klezmer music with pieces written especially for him such as Wlad Marhulet’s Concerto for Klezmer Clarinet and Orchestra, which he performed in June 2012 with the Orchestre National de Lyon, and Osvaldo Golijov’s . He recorded and toured with the Kronos Quartet and has performed the string orchestra version in Detroit, Berlin, Munich, Dresden, Ulster, and Madrid among other cities. He also tours with his bands Klezmer Madness!, which continues to broaden the horizons of klezmer music, and Abraham Inc., which fuses klezmer with funk and hip-hop.
Rachel Kelly 04/2012 | Übersetzung: Nina Rohlfs