Rohan Kriwaczek - The Wandering Jew
Rohan Kriwaczek's The Wandering Jew was released in 1999. A Jewish Music Institute reception in the foyer of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, as part of their Musical Dialogues of East and West day of events at the QE Hall and Purcell Room in November 2004, furnished the background of a chance meeting with the composer, who had also earlier attended the premiere of of his Nostalgia's Own End - Concerto for Klezmer Band and Chamber Orchestra, commissioned for the event and performed by the She'koyokh Klezmer Ensemble and The Wallace Ensemble, conducted by Benjamin Wolf.
Kriwaczek proved an animated, articulate and even charming conversational partner. As we had to attend our separate events, he gave me three of his CDs to listen to and maybe review. Well, a review was really a foregone conclusion. How could I possibly resist? The Wandering Jew is the first of these three fascinating albums.
A British composer, violinist, clarinettist, bagpipe player and writer of part Austrian Jewish descent, Rohan Kriwaczek studied composition with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Oliver Knussen and Judith Wier. His academic record is exemplary, and his compositional output has been prolific, with numerous commissions for film, theatre, television and radio as well as the concert platform. Kriwaczek's music is often described as somber and haunting, even macabre. However, like the man himself, I have found his music to be far from as one-dimensional as that. It is as multi-dimensional and multi-faceted as you would expect from any half-decent composer or musician.
On The Wandering Jew, Rohan Kriwaczek plays all instruments himself, with the exception of two parts on two of the tracks, respectively cello on track 1 and guitar on track 13 played by Rory Pierce. The influence of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is never very far away here. The other dominant influences clearly discernible are those of traditional Ashkenazi Jewish music such as klezmer and of the synagogue, Middle Eastern music, as well as Indian music. This forms an organic whole, a subtle blend that is completely unforced and free of artifice.
Rohan Kriwaczek's The Wandering Jew clearly does not fit into any particular pigeon hole, easily or otherwise, but all the best music rarely does. If you really must, you could perhaps describe this music as "experimental 21st century". The breadth and depth of this work are truly astonishing. Yes, there are somber pieces or passages here and there, and for the most part it certainly is haunting. Hauntingly beautiful. Often, there is an air of mystery and mysticism. For the open mind, there are whole worlds of music to discover here. The Wandering Jew is a journey through time and space, through past, future and present, almost as a metaphor of an exploration of the Jewish diaspora throughout history. It is a truly breathtaking work of enormous merit, and one of the most fascinating as well as enjoyable of modern compositions that I have encountered. The latter certainly cannot be said all that often of "modern" or "experimental" compositions.
We have not even touched upon Rohan Kriwaczek's excellent performance as a multi-instrumentalist yet. Suffice it to say then that his playing of his various instruments is superb throughout and cannot be faulted, though his clarinet and bagpipes are particularly outstanding here.
A magnificent album such as Rohan Kriwaczek's The Wandering Jew really ought to be considered essential in any kind of contemporary music collection, regardless of what angle you approach it from. Whether contemporary classical, contemporary Jewish, or even world music, The Wandering Jew will fit into your collection and should not be missing from it!
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