Tsimbl un Fidl: Klezmer Music For Hammered Dulcimer & Violin
Released in 2001, Pete Rushefsky and Elie Rosenblatt's Tsimbl un Fidl: Klezmer Music For Hammered Dulcimer & Violin presents a rare and delightful opportunity to experience the traditional duet form of klezmer music. A form that probably peaked in the mid 19th century, it consisted most commonly of a violinist or flutist, or accordionist, and a tsimblist or cimbalist (hammered dulcimer player). Very few historic recordings of this form exist, probably no more than a few dozen cylinders and 78s from the early 20th century from Eastern Europe and the United States. Rushefsky and Rosenblatt's music is deeply rooted in these earliest recordings and harkens back even further.
Tsimbl un Fidl: Klezmer Music For Hammered Dulcimer & Violin is an exciting, fascinating and hugely enjoyable album in the best modern tradition of "Early Klezmer Music" and reveals both its artists, Elie Rosenblatt and Pete Rushefsky, as more than excellent musicians and virtuosi of their respective instruments. There is also a very evident sense of fun, of the musicians clearly enjoying themselves and enjoying playing together in this intimate duet form. Regrettably, no information is given regarding Rushefsky's tsimbl, but it has a beautiful, almost crystalline timbre, perhaps most closely resembling that of the Persian santur.
Most of the tracks on Pete Rushefsky and Elie Rosenblatt's Tsimbl un Fidl: Klezmer Music For Hammered Dulcimer & Violin are arranged as miniature suites of two or three pieces, in the fashion of the old European klezmer tradition. The opener, Kol Nidre is one of the exceptions. This melody will need little introduction to friends of Jewish music. Of liturgical origin, specifically motives deriving from Lithuanian and German Haftorah cantillations, it is possibly one of the oldest Ashkenazi melodies, going back perhaps as much as half a millennium. Rosenblatt and Rushefsky's sensitive interpretation is based on an old recording by Galician master fiddler Leon Ahl with an un credited tsimblist. This rendition is as deeply moving as a Kol Nidre should be and is practically guaranteed to make the listener's eyes go moist at the very least. Chazin's Sirba by contrast is a lively and happy dance tune. A stately Romanian Hora circle dance and lively Romanian Sirba form the first of the mini suites. The next two pieces form another, a very Middle Eastern flavoured Tsimbl Doina that shows off the tsimbl to superb effect, and a Dobriden that does likewise. Both of these are Rushefsky compositions. Three pieces make up the next mini suite; Patch Tants is an animated dance tune traditionally accompanied by the dancers' clapping, while the Honga is a shuffling Roma circle dance form here used in an original Rushefsky composition, and Palesteena Freylekh is a popular klezmer freylekh that even made it into the recorded repertoire of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Haneros Hallolu is a Chanukah prayer, here given voice in an instrumental improvisation. Another Pete Rushefsky original, Tsimbl Khosidl for solo tsimbl, and Behuser Khosid, make up another mini suite of lively delightful dance tunes. Yiddishe Hora and Heimishe Freylekh again form a mini suite, the former a stately processional dance, the latter a lively freylekh notable for being a somewhat rare example of a klezmer tune that never ventures out of major. Although lively, Romanian Fantazi is a rhapsodic piece meant for contemplative listening rather than dance that is highly evocative with its exotic melody and hypnotic tsimbl accompaniment. The last of the mini suites consists of Ahl's Doina, unusual in not following the typical klezmer modal progressions or modal changes and instead focusing entirely on exploring the Misheberakh Ashkenazi liturgical mode, and Skocne, an animated dance tune. The closer, New York Bulgars, is a medley of bulgars, originally a Bessarabian dance related to the sirba, distinguished by its complex almost polyrhythmic structure that generally superimposes an 8/8 (3+3+2) beat over a 2/4 melody and bass, and by its prominent use of characteristic runs of triplets. The sheer exuberance of this medley is breathtaking and rounds this album off most satisfyingly.
Pete Rushefsky and Elie Rosenblatt's Tsimbl un Fidl must be considered essential in any klezmer collection, especially any with a particular focus on traditional and "Early" klezmer. This album is a gem! It is only to be hoped that more recordings in the delightful duet form with tsimbl, and particularly by these two outstanding artists, will follow.
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