BACK TO THE ROOT OF THE OLIVE TREE?
 

My passion for recreating the sounds of the music of the ancient world originates mainly from my many years as a self-taught Klezmer fiddle player - I became increasingly intrigued by the timeless, ancient musical modes I was so familiar with in Klezmer and it was my desire to "get back to the root of the olive tree", to delve deeper into the actual origin of these haunting, ancient modes, which since discovering the little-known work of the late Suzanne Haik Vantoura, I discovered that they may indeed turn out to be as ancient as the Hebrew Bible itself. 
 

 

For full details on all my research, exploration & experimentation of the Klezmer music genre, please also visit my Google Klezmer music site
 

"Klezmer" is the name now given to the Jewish Wedding Music of the Shtetls of old Eastern Europe, the word being derived from the Yiddish, meaning "Vessels of Song" - I was captivated by the sound of the ancient Middle Eastern scales used in Klezmer music, and it was this which fuelled my fascination to eventually discover their ultimate origins in Biblical Antiquity, and eventually, my ongoing quest, to recreate the sounds of the Music of the Ancient World. This is the reason why, in 2006, I named my YouTube Channel "Klezfiddle1" - one of my early grainy webcam YouTube videos, (featuring a somewhat unique raucous, rough & ready electric fiddle rendition of a rare surviving Hungarian Klezmer melody, "Khosid Dance"), with now well over 400,000 views, has remarkably become one of the most watched video of Klezmer fiddle on the whole of YouTube:

 

Most of the repertoire from my album,"King David's Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel"  was derived from the traditional Klezmer repertoire, uniquely arranged for my evocation of the 3000 year old Biblical Lyre.

My 2 albums "Echoes of the Shtetl" & "The Klezmer Fiddle" attempt to evoke the sounds of the tragically lost Shtetls of Eastern Europe - the entrancing refrains, of the traditional Jewish Klezmer Fiddle. Tracks from "Echoes of the Shtetl" were featured in the movie, "My Grandfather's Prayers", produced by Lisa Sturtz, which was broadcast on JLTV throughout 2020:

 

 ECHOES OF THE SHTETL


"Emotional Violin Playing 
 
 Michael Levy’s music is rich and detailed and his fiddle playing is exquisite. This collection of Jewish Klezmer melodies unveiled a musical cultural I was not very familiar with. The rare surviving Hungarian Klezmer melody “Dance from Máramaros” has a liveliness to it that counterbalances the weighty solemnity of the wonderful pieces like “Yiddish Hora” or “Unzer Toyrele.” Full of detail, texture and emotion, this release is highly recommended"

   life_boy - iTunes (USA) Review of "Echoes of the Shtetl"

The first 2 tracks of this album feature some of the precious rare surviving Hungarian traditional Jewish Klezmer melodies which only survived the tragic destruction of virtually all the centuries of Hungarian Jewish culture during the Holocaust, as they were thankfully preserved in the aural memory of Hungarian gypsy musicians, who used to play these melodies at Hungarian Jewish Weddings before the War...
 

 

Download Free PDF of Detailed Album Notes

Buy This Album on iTunes

Buy This Album From Amazon 

Buy This Album on Google Play  

Buy Lossless Audio Files or 320kbps Quality MP3s of This Album From Bandcamp 

Hear & Share This Album on Spotify

Hear a clip of the first track in a BBC Radio 4 programme!


 THE KLEZMER FIDDLE

 

"Great 'Oy Tate!'

Fabien Naudier, a French director, has used this title in his last movie called "Entre eux deuz".The finesse of the Michael Levy's interpretation has easily convinced him to choose it.We hope that our choice is the sign of a largest interest for this fabulous musician and his genuine approach.
Thanks for all. Merci!"


Macalube Films - iTunes (France) Review of The Klezmer Fiddle"



Download Free PDF of Detailed Album Notes

Buy This Album on iTunes

Buy This Album on Amazon

Buy This Album on Google Play

Buy Lossless Audio or 320kbps Quality MP3's of This Album on Bandcamp

Hear & Share This Album on Spotify

The Klezmer Fiddle

Michael Levy - Composer for Lyre

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The Klezmer Fiddle

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This album, along with my album, "Echoes of the Shtetl", are my attempt to recreate the wonderful sounds of the traditional Jewish Klezmer fiddle, which once wafted through the many Shtetls of Eastern Europe, prior to the ravages wrought on Eastern European Jewish musical culture by the Holocaust.

Above all the musical styles which influenced the traditional Klezmer musicians of Eastern Europe, the Romanian influence seems to be the strongest and most enduring. This fact is reflected in the dance forms found throughout the entire surviving Klezmer music repertoire, e.g. Horas, Doinas, and Bulgars etc. I have also featured examples of such piece on the album, for example "Odessa Bulgar" & "Der Heyser Bulgar". This influence on the old Jewish Klezmer music of Eastern Europe may again be due to the sounds of Romanian Gypsy music heard on the fringes of Eastern European society, near to the old Jewish Shtetls, which the Klezmer musicians heard, adopted and adapted.

It is so often overlooked, that the fact that any Klezmer music has survived today, is mostly thanks to the emigration to America of Jewish musicians from Eastern Europe, prior to the advent of World War II. Some of these musicians recorded the traditional Klezmer melodies they took with them, (their “invisible baggage”), mostly during the 1920s. It was thanks to these crackly vintage recordings, that the revival of Klezmer music, starting in the 1970s, was made possible.

Other surviving Klezmer & Yiddish classics on this album, include"Oy Tate!", "Baym Rebin's Sude", "Papirorosen" and a selection of my other favourite Klezmer fiddle melodies. However, after the War in Europe, so much beautiful Jewish music was so tragically lost...

The rather rustic "rough edges" in my fiddle playing, (which the classically trained violinist will no doubt detect), is simply a consequence of the fact that I am totally, entirely self-taught - just like most of the Eastern European Jewish Klezmer musicians of old, I never had either the money or the opportunity to take violin lessons. In my own opinion, folk music played by a classically trained violinist, simply no longer sounds like authentic folk music.

If music can "Capture the Soul" of a People, then may this recording be my tribute to the Jewish & Gypsy musicians of Eastern Europe who were so brutally & pointlessly butchered by the Nazis during the Holocaust - at least this little selection of Klezmer melodies which some of them once played, will now, forever, live on...

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    Meron Nign (Tune From Meron)

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    Papirosen (Cigarettes)

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    Baym Rebin's Sude

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    Oy Tate! (Oh, Daddy)

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    Hopke 1:36
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    Hopke

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    Odessa Bulgar

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    Der Heyser Bulgar

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    Firn Di Mekhutonim Aheym

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Echoes of the Shtel

Michael Levy - Composer for Lyre

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Echoes of the Shtel

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This album is my attempt to recreate the wonderful sounds of the traditional Jewish Klezmer fiddle, which once wafted through the many Shtetls of Eastern Europe, prior to the ravages wrought on Eastern European Jewish musical culture by the Holocaust.

The first couple of tracks on this album are particularly poignant. "Khosid Dance" (track 1) & "Dance From Maramaros" (track 2) - these melodies uniquely demonstrate the fusion of Jewish and Romanian-style Gypsy Music which existed in Hungary, prior to the totally pointless, barbaric destruction of both these communities and their centuries of fabulously rich and diverse musical culture, during the sheer horror of the Holocaust. I first learnt them by ear from a fantastic recording called "The Lost Jewish Music of Transylvania" (Hannibal 1973).

This recording uniquely features Hungarian Jewish Klezmer melodies, thankfully remembered by a handful of surviving Hungarian Gypsy musicians, who played these very melodies with Jewish musicians, and also at Jewish Weddings in Hungary before World War II - thus preserving a precious remnant of the amazing Hungarian Jewish/Gypsy culture which once so wonderfully merged & thrived together for literally centuries...

In my own personal arrangement of "Khosid Dance", I have attempted to covey this fusion of Romanian Gypsy and Jewish Klezmer fiddle styles, by beginning and closing the piece passages in the style of a typical, mournful Romanian "Doina" - a free improvisatory style of fiddle playing, which the Klezmer musicians seem to have directly adopted and adapted from the Romanian-style Gypsy music they heard. In certain parts of "Khosid Dance", hints of the familiar Jewish Klezmer "Ahava Raba" mode can be heard (AA#C#DEFGA), but the Gypsy/Romanian influence can clearly be felt in both the phrasing and general "mood" of the music. The fiddle playing heard in these precious few surviving Hungarian Klezmer melodies (as performed on the Muzikas recording) has a much "fuller" fiddle style/sound, than the much more ornamented, sinuous, almost "vibrato-free" fiddle styles of Jewish Eastern European Klezmer .

Another fascinating recording I can recommend is called "Like a Different World", by the late Leon Schwartz. In this unique recording, can be heard a Jewish fiddle player who was born in Poland in 1902, and was actually taught to play fiddle by the local Gypsy musicians who lived near his village - a fantastically beautiful fusion of styles.

In my intention to covey the terrible loss of the Hungarian Jewish & Gypsy cultures which once so harmoniously blossomed together in Hungary for centuries, until their almost total destruction in the holocaust, my arrangement of the melody is much slower and mournful than the dance-style rendition heard in the performance of this piece by Muzsikas. I also attempt to emphasis this sadness by means of the fiddle technique often heard in traditional Jewish Klezmer music, which is known as a "cretche" - literally attempting to create a "sobbing" effect on the fiddle, by means of lightly stopping the strings at the end of playing certain notes in the melody...which has the effect of "cutting short the breath" of these notes, just like the sound of someone sobbing.

This fascinating cultural exchange of musical ideas is certainly not unique to Jewish Klezmer music - it seems to have happened throughout all of History, whenever two entirely different cultures find themselves living side by side, for example, Cajun music - an absolutely incredible fusion, of quaint French Dance Music...and Louisiana Blues!

Above all the musical styles which influenced the traditional Klezmer musicians of Eastern Europe, the Romanian influence seems to be the strongest and most enduring. This fact is reflected in the dance forms found throughout the entire surviving Klezmer music repertoire, e.g. Horas, Doinas, and Bulgars etc. I have also featured examples of such piece on the album, for example & "Oriental Hora" (track 5) & "Oriental Hora" (track 6). This influence on the old Jewish Klezmer music of Eastern Europe may again be due to the sounds of Romanian Gypsy music heard on the fringes of Eastern European society, near to the old Jewish Shtetls, which the Klezmer musicians heard, adopted and adapted.

It is so often overlooked, that the fact that any Klezmer music has survived today, is mostly thanks to the emigration to America of Jewish musicians from Eastern Europe, prior to the advent of World War II. Some of these musicians recorded the traditional Klezmer melodies they took with them, (their “invisible baggage”), mostly during the 1920s. It was thanks to these crackly vintage recordings, that the revival of Klezmer music, starting in the 1970s, was made possible. "Oriental Hora" (track 5) is an example of one of these traditional Klezmer melodies which survived, thanks to an early recording of it in the USA, made by the Klezmer violinist, Max Liebowitz.

The rather rustic "rough edges" in my fiddle playing, (which the classically trained violinist will no doubt detect), is simply a consequence of the fact that I am totally, entirely self-taught - just like most of the Eastern European Jewish Klezmer musicians of old, I never had either the money or the opportunity to take violin lessons. In my own opinion, folk music played by a classically trained violinist, simply no longer sounds like authentic folk music.

If music can "Capture the Soul" of a People, then may this recording be my tribute to the Jewish & Gypsy musicians of Eastern Europe who were so brutally & pointlessly butchered by the Nazis during the Holocaust - at least this little selection of Klezmer melodies which some of them once played, will now, forever, live on...

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    Khosid Dance (Rare Surviving Hungarian Klezmer Melody)

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    Dance from Máramaros (Rare Surviving Hungarian Klezmer Melody)

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    Dobriden ("Good Morning" - Traditional Klezmer Melody)

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    Unzer Toyrele (Traditional Klezmer Melody)

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    Oriental Hora (Traditional Klezmer Melody)

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    Yiddish Hora (Traditional Klezmer Melody)

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    The Happy Nigun (Traditional Klezmer Melody)

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    Nokh a Glezl Vayan ("Another Glass of Wine" - Traditional Klezmer Melody)

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My Klezmer Fiddle Portrait - by the very talented  Rosie Levy!

My Klezmer Fiddle Portrait - by the very talented Rosie Levy!