Klezmer Nutcracker - Cracked!
Shirim Klezmer Orchestra's album Klezmer Nutcracker was originally released in 1998 on the Newport Classic label.
The Klezmer Nutcracker Suite that gives this album its title consists of the first seven tracks. It is Shirim Klezmer Orchestra's manic, humorous, "klezzified" re-interpretation of Tchaikovsky. It's done with great panache, charm and wit, in a style very much their own and original. No simple klezmer-classical crossover, this. Shirim take the Tchaikovsky material and turn it upside down and inside out, changing rhythms and notes as it suits, and give it a thoroughly klezmer treatment. The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy becomes The Dance of the Latkes Queens, and you'll never listen to a straight performance of the original in quite the same way again! This suite might even have cheered up poor old Tchaik himself! It also and coincidentally makes for a great, light-hearted way of introducing kids to Tchaikovsky and classical music generally, and for that matter, to klezmer at the same time. The Klezmer Nutcracker Suite is just adorable and hugely enjoyable - what more could one possibly say?
The second part of Shirim Klezmer Orchestra's Klezmer Nutcracker gives a similarly manic and irreverent treatment to assorted works by Mahler, Enesco, Satie, Brahms and Chopin (some in turn based on Jewish/Eastern European themes), and a couple of traditional klezmer standards are also included. The result is as charming and witty as the Klezmer Nutcracker Suite itself. Gustav's Wedding from Mahler's First Symphony appropriately returns Mahler to his Jewish musical roots as it were, from whence this music came in the first place. Enesco's Romanian Rhapsody is simply breathtaking. Satie is much improved with Shirim's versions of Gnossienne 1 and 2 and 3, and Gymnopedie 3. Hungarian Goulash gives Brahms' Hungarian Rhapsody an "authentic", humorous treatment that cannot fail to delight.
The outstanding arrangements on this album are complemented by equally outstanding musicianship and technical excellence. Shirim (who incidentally also have a somewhat more avantgarde incarnation, as Naftule's Dream) are an extremely accomplished band, and the humour and fun of this album are infectious.
Klezmer Nutcracker as a whole cannot fail to delight. In it, Shirim Klezmer Orchestra have created a perennial favourite that ought to be found in any classical/light classical music lover's collection and is almost essential in any comprehensive klezmer collection. But no matter what your genre orientation, if you just love good music regardless of such narrow confines, you're bound to enjoy this album.
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