Lloica Czackis, an exceptional and exceptionally versatile mezzo-soprano as at home in the classical world ranging from renaissance to avant-garde music, including opera and oratorio and with works often especially written for her, as in Latin-American and European 20th century music, including cabaret and tango, created her Tangele project in 2002, following her extensive research on the fascinating phenomenon of the Yiddish Tango. (For those not au fait with the Yiddish language, Tangele is a diminutive form of the word Tango; the use of the diminutive is common in Yiddish and denotes deep affection and respect; thus, for example, also Toyrele - dear Torah.) The show was premiered in London in 2002 (a CD of selected tracks, also called Tangele, is also available and can easily be found e.g. at Jewish Music Distribution UK) and numerous engagements from various European international festivals and cultural institutions followed and continue. Fortunately, the current season included this mild November Sunday night at Union Chapel, Islington, a superb concert and recital venue in North London, on the edge of the City of London, and I finally had the long awaited opportunity to catch this outstanding show here. Very fittingly and movingly, the date for this particular performance coincided with the anniversary of Kristallnacht, lending it an added poignancy.
In addition to Lloica Czackis herself, the Tangele Ensemble comprises Gustavo Beytelmann on piano and as arranger, and Juan Lucas Aisemberg on viola. Gustavo Beytelmann should need little introduction, both as a performer and prolific composer especially also of music for film and television in Argentina and Europe; his extensive performing credits include playing with Astor Piazzolla on the latter's 1977 European tour, and the Mosalini-Beytelmann-Caratini Trio, with whom he also recorded several albums, between 1981 and 1992. Juan Lucas Aisemberg is an outstanding violist, working with the Deutsche Oper Berlin since 1993 as well as with a number of chamber ensembles and as a soloist, in which latter two roles he has performed extensively at most important international music festivals; he is also a founding member of the NoviTango x 4 ensemble with whom he has performed all over Europe and South America as well as recorded five albums.
Lloica Czackis & Gustavo Beytelmann
A "potted history" of the Yiddish Tango by way of introduction may be in order here. As the Tango evolved in Argentina in the early decades of the 20th century (CE), it quickly also found favour among Argentina's Jewish population, whose musicians soon put their own stamp on this new form and incorporated it into their own music, most notably perhaps in the context of the Yiddish theatre. As the tango swept through North America, it also quickly found its way into the Yiddish theatre there, while at the same time, the Tango also conquered Europe, and in particular also Eastern Europe, again (Eastern European) Jewish musicians quickly adopting this new style. During the nightmare that was the Shoah or holocaust this gave rise to what is perhaps the highest form of the Yiddish Tango, the "Ghetto Tango",
a form of song that combined elements of tango and cabaret song with usually deeply moving, often disturbing, heart-rending lyrics telling of everyday life in the ghettos and, in some cases, even in the death camps.
While the major focus of Lloica Czackis' Tangele show is the Ghetto Tango, it also includes a wonderful selection of classic songs from both the New York and Buenos Aires Yiddish theatre.
The Union Chapel, after a slow start, started filling up and then kept filling up - so much so, extra time had to be allowed and the start of the performance delayed some fifteen minutes. At the end of this delay, the auditorium had filled to very near capacity! The audience, though a clearly different one from that of the recent Giora Feidman recital, was again one that can only be described as exemplary and of the best kind that any concert venue and performer could wish for: enthusiastic, receptive and responsive, while at the same time free from common distractions such as the usual shuffling and coughing.
A nightingale sang in Union Chapel - Lloica Czackis
The stage lights came on, beautifully set up so as to simulate the somewhat
dim lighting of a cabaret, and the two instrumentalists, Gustavo Beytelmann and Juan Lucas Aisemberg, took their places. Then, a vision straight out of some 1930s cabaret. Lloica Czackis looked her part utterly convincingly, a vision of elegant, sophisticated glamour.
And then, a nightingale sang in Union Chapel, and a voice that just grabbed you right there and everywhere and never let go. Ms. Czackis is gifted with an exceptional and extraordinary voice, immensely powerful yet effortless and unforced, and moreover a voice that is both dramatic as well as lyrical as the material demands it, truly a rare phenomenon. Lloica Czackis' voice could easily have filled the auditorium, any auditorium, without any amplification. An almost palpable air of awe seemed to pervade the audience. Positively radiating stage presence, charm and charisma, Ms. Czackis emanates the kind of confidence that comes out of not so much believing in one's ability as possessing it, lots of it. With a perfectly balanced blend of passion and sensitivity, guts and tenderness, Lloica Czackis gave an unforgettable performance that was possessed of a maturity well beyond her young years.
Gustavo Beytelmann at the piano and Juan Lucas Aisemberg on viola complemented
and enhanced this outstanding performance perfectly. Both players of impeccable
musicianship and virtuosity in their own right, they never once detracted
from the singer and indeed form a most perfect ensemble with Lloica Czackis.
Gustavo Beytelmann, piano
The first half of the well chosen and balanced programme was entirely given to Ghetto Tangos, opening with Dos transport yingl. Through the magic of Lloica Czackis' performance, one felt at once as though taken back to that dark time - this might have been the third anniversary of Kristallnacht, somewhere in a ghetto in Poland, people struggling to preserve their sanity by maintaining as much a semblance of normal life as the madness in whose midst they were trapped would permit, instead of the 65th anniversary in a fashionable, comfortable, safe part of London. Friling has long been a personal favourite with its heart-rending story of love and tragedy (all the more poignant on account of a not dissimilar experience in a close
friend's family that came to light within the last year or so). Lloica Czackis' rendition of this perhaps darkest yet deepest of love songs was a powerfully moving one devoid of the excessive sentimentality that could so easily turn it into insipid melancholy; instead, it was deeply touching and affectionate, and at once uplifting, affirmative of life, love, and our very humanity. Of course, it would sadly be impractical to comment on every single song, so suffice it to say that Ms. Czackis rendered every one with equal sensitivity and power, be they Ghetto Tangos or songs from the Yiddish theatres of New York and Buenos Aires, be they well-known familiar songs or lesser-known ones.
The inclusion in the first half of the programme of Ravel's L'enigme eternelle from Deux melodies hebraiques warrants special mention. Not only a very appropriate and well-fitting inclusion, it was also the most outstanding rendition of this that it's ever been my pleasure to hear.
Lloica Czackis with Gustavo Beytelmann
After the interval, the programme continued with New York Yiddish Theatre songs, including the Molly Picon (NY Yiddish Theatre's greatest star) and Abe Ellstein standard Oygn. The second half concluded with songs from the Buenos Aires Yiddish theatre. Overall, the somewhat more light-hearted second half provided an almost mandatory counterbalance to the more tender, somewhat darker first half. An encore was as inevitable as night following day - the thunderous roar of the applause must have easily reached Upper Street. Lloica Czackis and her fellow Tangele Ensemble members Gustavo Beytelmann and Juan Lucas Aisemberg received a richly deserved, seriously enthusiastic and sincere ovation that, had it been an earthquake, would have been rated at least somewhere around seven on the Richter scale. A second encore was very much clamoured for but no doubt due to the late start could not be forthcoming.
Lloica Czackis' Tangele was a resounding triumph, made all the sweeter for having taken place on the anniversary of Kristallnacht. Much more than a mere commemoration, Tangele was a positive statement, an affirmation, a celebration even, saying, "We're still here, we have not only survived but overcome, and our culture lives and blossoms." A most memorable night, and an unforgettable performance by Lloica Czackis and Gustavo Beytelmann and Juan Lucas Aisemberg, an ensemble that makes for a very potent combination from which one would love to hear a whole lot more.
© 2004 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.
|The many magnificent
moods of Lloica Czackis
Juan Lucas Aisemberg, viola
...and more of Lloica Czackis' expressive moods
The magnificent Lloica Czackis