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Wlad Marhulets - Winner of the Azrieli Prize in Jewish Music
Klezmer music came crashing into my life when, as a sixteen-year-old living in Gdansk, Poland, my brother Damian brought home a CD by a band called Klezmer Madness, featuring the clarinetist David Krakauer. This was music that was so boldly Jewish, so full of wild energy that a kind of madness enveloped my senses as I listened to it. And even though at the time I had high hopes of becoming a successful visual artist, I decided to become a musician on the spot.
Soon I was a clarinetist writing tunes for my own special klezmer band. As we toured all over Poland, I was elated to have at last found the means of exploring and feeling empowered by my own heritage. Indeed, in a way, this madness made me feel fearless. A mere five years after that fateful day, I was living in New York and studying composition with John Corigliano at The Juilliard School. When in New York, I reached out to David Krakauer. When we met, I told him my story and I gave him a CD with my compositions. David was incredibly kind to me and it truly felt great to finally meet the man who had such an impact on my life. A few days later, I received my first commission as a composer. I was to write a Concerto for Klezmer Clarinet for David Krakauer.
Klezmer, in essence, describes secular musical tradition of the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe. The first part of the Hebrew word, kli, means vessel, and the second half, zemer, means song. This vessel of song is stylistically influenced by the indigenous music from various countries in Eastern Europe, particularly from Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Ukraine, Greece, and Turkey. Some of the most popular klezmer dance forms include Freylekh (based on traditional Bulgarian and Romanian dances with 3+3+2 rhythm), Waltz (coming from Russia and Poland), Kolomeike (fast Ukrainian dance in 2/4), and others. The late 20th century was the time of revival of klezmer music. Numerous musicians combined klezmer with free jazz, funk, hip-hop, drum & bass, concert, and folk music. Hence, klezmer is not a distinct musical style, but rather a mixture of multiple influences. It constantly evolves and reinvents itself.
Concerto for Klezmer Clarinet is scored for full orchestra with the addition of a drum set and an electric bass. Polistylistic in nature, the concerto juxtaposes traditional klezmer forms with contemporary orchestral writing. It was premiered on December 1st, 2009 by David Krakauer and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, with Andrew Litton conducting.
— Wlad Marhulets