By Greg Cahill | From the March-April 2023 issue of Strings magazine
Klezmer has its roots in Eastern Europe and often is played at major Jewish life events and celebrations. Violist, composer, and arranger Lev “Ljova” Zhurbin hails from New York City by way of Moscow. He has arranged these remarkable pieces, alternately exuberant and soothing, for the Muir String Quartet and clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein.
Muir String Quartet with Alexander Fiterstein, clarinet
(Big Round Records)
The Muirs—Peter Zazofsky and Lucia Lin, violins; Steven Ansell, viola; and Michael Reynolds, cello—infuse these eight tracks with joy and a sense of wonder. Of course, Klezmer recordings are not rare, and over the years this traditional folk music has attracted the attentions of such illustrious classical artists as violinist Itzhak Perlman. But the chamber-music setting is less common, and Ljova and this gifted quintet have bestowed beauty and elegance to such tunes as the lyrical “Firn di Mekhutonim Aheym,” a traditional song used to escort the parents of the bride and groom home.
Rhythmically, the songs range far and wide: “Nign No. 72” is a nocturnal serenade that builds from a soft summer breeze to a tempest. “Nifty’s Freilach” is a spry romantic romp. “Zaydn’s Tants” is a dizzying dance that has been described as the “Turkey in the Straw” of Eastern Europe. That’s a hayride I would take any day of the week.