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Klezmer Nutcracker

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Album Review

It's holiday time! And what does that mean musically? Of course, klezmer! Now you may be saying, "But isn't this traditionally the time for Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker?" Well, yes! But now there is a new holiday tradition for the rest of us (and, in fact, for all of us). For nearly a decade, the Boston-based klezmer consortium Shirim (which plays in a somewhat more avant-garde style as Naftule's Dream, by the way) has been torquing this traditional holiday happening in a very novel yet very sensible way. As both klezmer and Tchaikovsky are based in Russia and as both the original Nutcracker and this shtetl-ized version are intended as dances, the turn is often as smooth as a latke (well?). Instead of sugarplum fairies spinning stiffly on point, Shirim conjures up rugalah elves twirling through an uproarious hora. The melodies are still familiar, but the mood is much more Bolshoi than ballet. On the second half of this album, Shirim takes other famous compositions to task, turning Mahler's First Symphony into the chair-lifting "Gustav's Wedding" and Brahms' Hungarian Rhapsody into "Hungarian Ghoulash" literally and figuratively. In the hands of these talented musicians, no song is safe, but all's well that ends...well?


Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The Shirim Klezmer Orchestra offers listeners a distinctive genre-crossing experience. The ensemble gives classic klezmer a twist, updating the traditional music with modern jumping beats. The band also takes the classical strains of Mahler, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky, and gives them a unique klezmer treatment. Shirim put out an album of klezmer-treated Tchaikovsky, the Newport Classic release Klezmer Nutcracker. The orchestra's unique sound was featured in Deconstructing Harry, a film by Woody Allen....
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