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April 05, 1991 - Image 71

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-04-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


Man A Klezmer


Special to The Jewish News


on't talk to Giora
Feidman about klez-
mer music.
The Argentina-born clari-
netist, sometimes referred to
as the "King of Klezmer,"
gets ticked off every time he
hears the popular phrase.
"Everybody speaks about
klezmer music, but I per-
sonally cannot use the
term," Mr. Feidman said in
a telephone interview from
his Little Neck, N.Y., home.
Mr. Feidman and his trio
will perform a blend of clas-
sical, jazz, pop and Jewish

folk music 9 p.m. April 13 at
the Maple-Drake Jewish
Community Center. A cham-
pagne reception at 8 p.m.
precedes the concert.

Klezmer, he explained in
his thick Argentinian ac-
cent, is a Hebrew term
meaning "instrument of
song." Rather than referring
to a form of music, as it's
frequently used, it denotes
the musician himself.
"Every man is an instru-
ment of song, a klezmer,"
said Mr. Feidman, who was
principal clarinetist of the
Israel Philharmonic Orches-
tra from 1957 to 1975. "In
the moment that you say
klezmer music, you don't see
yourself as a klezmer, you

When the group finished
playing the tune in a
straightforward fashion,
Mr. Feidman asked the
show's producer if he could
play it again — this time in a
Jewish style with more emo-
tion and emphasis. The pro-
ducer agreed. Once taped,
the joyous tune became ex-
tremely popular with the Is-
raeli public.
"Little by little I started
to realize that the success of
the tune was the result of a
need in society for this kind
of music," Mr. Feidman
In 1970, Mr. Feidman
formed a trio with guitarist
Yossi Levi and bass player
Ami Frenkil and began to
tour around the world play-
ing Jewish folk music. His
stops have included London,
Tokyo and Bangkok. He
eventually gave up his post

with the Israel Philharmonic
to devote more time to tour-
"Always Jewish music
was a very important ele-
ment in my home," said Mr.
Feidman, who now tours
with guitarist Jeff Israel
and bass Anthony Falanga.
"It's my mother's milk, this
music. It is an expression of
the soul."

He noted that Jewish folk
music contains influences
from Spain, Yemen, and
South America as well as
from Eastern Europe. Per-
haps the most well-known
tunes in this genre are the
happy melodies played at
weddings, as well as those to
which prayers are sung,
such as "Kol Nidre."
"To be a real klezmer," he
said, "you must be able to
express through your in-

"It's my mother's
milk, this music.
It is an expression
of the soul."

—Giora Feidman

say it's (something) external.
That's not healthy."

Mr. Feidman has the au-
thority to quibble about the
use of the word. The descen-
dant of four generations of
klezmerim, he's played a
large role in bringing soul-
ful, lively Jewish folk music
to its current height of popu-
larity around the world.
One day about 24 years
ago he was playing a Rus-
sian folk tune called "Silk
Nightgown" with a quintet
for an Israeli radio show.

strument a prayer, and a
Shabbat nigun [melody]:'
His playing has won him
considerable acclaim. Ac-
cording to Zubin Mehta,
music director of the Israel
Philharmonic, Mr. Feidman
"stands without a peer
today" in his renditions of
Jewish folk music tunes.
"Not only does he complete-
ly understand the depth and
the soul of this music, but he
is able to bring forth out of
his clarinet sounds that
completely convince even
the most unknowledgeable
listener as to his mission,"
Mr. Mehta has written.
In 1989, Mr. Feidman was
chosen as solo clarinetist for

Giora Feidman says, "Every man is an instrument of song, a klezmer."

the soundtrack Of the film,
Enemies, A Love Story.
Maurice Jarre, the compos-
er, wrote the music with Mr.
Feldman in mind.
"I think it's a great, great
film," Mr. Feidman said of
"Enemies," which tells the
story of a Holocaust survi-
vor caught between three
wives and paralyzed with
guilt. "There are many
things we can understand
about it. It's a human trag-
edy that all of us can relate
Mr. Feidman traces the
strong link between Juda-
ism and music to the
melodies used in Jewish
"For Judaism, you can
pray only if you sing the
prayer," Mr. Feldman said.
"The verbal expression, the
words, are only to educate
your mind, so your mind will
be your friend. God doesn't
need the words."

"Someone who goes into a
synagogue will hear only the
song," Mr. Feidman said.
Born in Buenos Aires in
1936, Mr. Feidman began to
perform at Jewish weddings

as a young teen-ager with his

father, also a clarinetist. Al-
ter schooling at the Conser-
vatorio Municipal, the major
musical academy of Buenos
Aires, the young Mr. Feid-
man joined the Buenos Aires
Teatro Colon Orchestra at
the age of 18. Two years
later he emigrated to Israel,
where he was appointed
principal clarinetist of the
Israeli Philharmonic.
In 1978, Mr. Feidman and
his wife, Ora, moved to the
United States.
"We were coming from Is-
rael to New York two or
three times a year," Mr.
Feidman said. "In 1978 we
made a tour here, and after
this I had nothing to do in
Israel. We were tired of fly-
ing so much. My wife said,
`Let's sit here one or two
months, let's see what hap-
pens.' So here we are 12

"My real home, my spiri-
tual home, is still in Israel,"
he said.
Despite his attachment to
Judaism and to Israel,
where his three children still
live, Mr. Feidman likes to
look beyond religion to a
greater sense of humanity
and mankind.
"I don't make music from
the point of view of a Jew, I
make it from the point of
view of a human being," he
said. "If when I'm playing
I'm thinking, 'I am a Jew,'
I'm against humanity, I'm
making a separation be-
tween people, instead of
bringing them together."
"Music," he said, "is be-
yond religion, beyond skin
color and borders and politi-
cal matters." ❑




Clarinetist Giora Feldman helped
popularize Jewish folk music.

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