Mother Tongue - Early Music, Klezmer Style
Having heard Joshua Horowitz's tsimbl playing on Adrianne Greenbaum's Fleyt Muzik and
Alicia Svigals' Fidl - Klezmer Violin, and also having read about Horowitz's work with his ensemble Budowitz and various other collaborations, I had been extremely eager to hear more of this quite phenomenal musician's output. Particularly so given that in the UK, one still gets the feeling of somehow having been left way behind in the world-wide "revival" in Jewish music and klezmer in particular, and that often, it can take years before one gets around to "discovering" somebody's "latest" recording in this splendid British isolation*. And so it gave me great pleasure to finally get hold of several of Horowitz's recordings at once, including Mother Tongue by his ensemble, Budowitz. What treats were awaiting my discovery!
Budowitz's Mother Tongue was recorded in 1996 and released on Koch International in 1997. It is another exquisite example of "Early Klezmer Music" or "Period Performance Klezmer", klezmer music played authentically in the style and manner it was performed in in the 19th to early 20th centuries in Eastern Europe, often (as, at least in part, here) on period instruments. Such authentic recreations of period style make meticulous research essential and require great sensitivity and artistry to make the music come alive instead of being merely sterile museum pieces. Devotion to as well as great enthusiasm for this task is abundantly evident here, and the technical virtuosity of the artists is beyond question. Mother Tongue also features very extensive and highly informative liner notes, including a small glossary of Yiddish terms frequently encountered in the context of klezmer music, expertly written by Joshua Horowitz, as well as an attractively designed cover. Nonetheless, the music has to stand, or indeed fall, on its own strength alone, and stand it does and beautifully so.
Mother Tongue is divided into suites, as was the practice until the early 20th century. Budowitz's first incarnation features on Mother Tongue and in addition to Joshua Horowitz on tsimbl and 19th century button accordion consists of Walt Mahovlich, C-clarinet, Steven Greenman, violin, Lothar Lasser, 19th C. button accordion, and Geza Penzes, cello and bass, with special guest vocalist Cili Schwartz on track one. Mother Tongue is sub-titled "Music of the 19th Century Klezmorim on Original Instruments" and features an original composition (actually, a "Doina" - an originally improvised lament that evolved in Rumania and by the late 19th century came to replace the earlier Turkish/Arabic "taksim" improvisation in klezmer music) by Horowitz in addition to all the traditional tracks, with which it blends seamlessly. The tsimbl he uses here has a somewhat warmer, slightly darker sonority than that on Bessarabian Symphony, but no less attractive. The tone of Horowitz's accordion, from whose maker the band takes its name, not only almost defies description but moreover is one that sadly I've never encountered before, and in the hands of Joshua Horowitz it is possessed of an incredible subtlety, flexibility, and rare beauty.
The music has you jumping up with an irrepressible urge to dance much of the time, at other times it turns more introspective. An excellent balance is achieved and maintained throughout between these. This is another fine example of a thoroughly consistent album with not a single weak track in sight. Another essential album in any klezmer collection.
Note: This review was written before I discovered the delights of Jewish Music Distribution JMD UK and other online sources.
© 2003 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.