Golijov’s Yiddishbbuk

Review by: ClassicsToday

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

With each new CD release of his music, Osvaldo Golijov’s burgeoning reputation as a wildly inventive and “must-hear” composer becomes more and more evident. The latest, from EMI, is a dazzler, a sexy and captivating coalescence of his early roots that includes an eclectic mix of chamber music, klezmer, and Argentinean tango. The Canadian-bred St. Lawrence String Quartet plays this music as if to the manner born, its performance equal to previously vivid presentations by the Kronos Quartet, which recently unveiled some of this composer’s other arrangements in its highly-regarded “Nuevo” (type Q4985 in Search Reviews).

Beckoning the listener with its salacious marking “Macho, cool, and dangerous”, the first selection for double quartet and string bass, Last Round, is a tribute to Golijov’s late countryman, Astor Piazzolla. Its two sections depict one extended “breath” of the bandoneon, from the frantic intake of the first to the near-continuous exhalation in the second, itself a variation on a well-known Argentinean song. Gypsy music underlies Lullaby and Doina, a trio of miniatures that features slinky, undulating obbligato themes in the clarinet and violin and utterly bursts with fervent energy in the concluding “Gallop”.

Golijov’s style abruptly changes in the title work, a three-movement memorial based on apocryphal psalms, scored for string quartet. The jarring opening movement, dedicated to children interned in the Terezín concentration camp during World War II, disturbs with its mix of dissonant, harsh pizzicatos, then mellows with a long harmonic-filled tone cluster interlude, finishing with a rhythmic flourish worthy of Bartók. The following musical epitaphs to Isaac Bashevis Singer and Leonard Bernstein offer similar contrasts of sparse instrumentation, pointillist passages, and punctuated statements.

The final and longest work on this disc, The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind, blends klezmer (the second movement) with liturgical themes (the outer quiet movements). Golijov’s soundscape by now is familiar and yet it is no less fascinating than the shorter pieces that preceded it. This much can be said: Todd Palmer proves through his colloquial solos that even a self-proclaimed Methodist can negotiate klezmer with the best of them.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: none

OSVALDO GOLIJOV - Last Round; Lullaby and Doina; Yiddishbbuk; The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind

  • EMI - 5 57356 2
  • CD

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