Reviews of “Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi Presents City of the Future: Yiddish Songs from the Former Soviet Union” and “Andalusian Love Song” by David Broza & the Andalusian Orchestra Ashkelon.”
Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi Presents
City of the Future: Yiddish Music from the Former Soviet Union
Arc Music Productions
In 1931, after the Russian Revolution brought the Soviet Communists to power, but before the Stalinist purges and then the Second World War destroyed the hope and idealism felt by many in the Soviet Union in the years following the revolution, a Russian Jewish composer named Shmuel Vladimirovich Polonski published a songbook of 19 Yiddish songs called “Far yungt (For Youth).” The songbook was based on Polonski’s musical settings of works by some of the leading Yiddish poets of the day.
Some years ago, Eric Green – who produced this album – came across a copy of Polonski’s book and turned to ethnomusicologist Yale Strom, a violinist and leader of the klezmer group Hot Pstromi, to create a program based on the songs in the book. Strom arranged the songs for ensembles of varied musicians and enlisted several of the leading singers of Yiddish song in the world today – including Michael Alpert (Brave Old World), Judy Bressler (Klezmer Conservatory Band) and Elizabeth Schwartz (Hot Pstromi) – to sing them.
Using a musical palette that draws on traditional Russian folk motifs, as well as jazz and classical music, Strom has created a complex and beautiful sounding recording, which is a delight to listen to. If only for the sound of the musicians and singers, City of the Future: Yiddish Music from the Former Soviet Union is a tremendous success.
However, the songs themselves need to be appreciated in the context of the times in which they were created. And, thanks to a booklet that provides both the Yiddish lyrics being sung and their English-language translations, one needn’t understand Yiddish to follow what the songs are about. Idealistic songs like “City of the Future,” the title track, which imagines a prosperous city where all the citizens are thriving and successful; “October,” which pays tribute to the heroes of the revolution; “Girls Sewing at the Machines,” in which young girls working at their sewing machines are educated about the new economic order by one of their fellow-workers; or “Factory Song,” in which workers take tremendous pride in the sounds of factory, seem so naive when listening through a contemporary sensibility.
David Broza & the Andalusian Orchestra Ashkelon
Andalusian Love Song
David Broza – one of Israel’s greatest singer-songwriters and guitarists since the 1970s – has long combined elements of folk, flamenco, pop and rock styles to create something that is both universal and uniquely his own. On Andalusian Love Song, Broza teams with the Andalusian Orchestra Ashkelon to create a rich and lush tapestry of orchestrated songs and instrumental improvisations – sung in Hebrew and Spanish with some occasional English – steeped in the musical traditions of Spain and the Middle East.
Among the highlights are “Bedouin Love Song,” a beautiful reinterpretation of one of Broza’s early Israeli hits; “Hello,” with its flamenco guitar motif propelled to new heights by the orchestra; and the several haunting instrumental improvisations featuring either Broza’s guitar or various solo instruments from the orchestra.
Michael Regenstreif, editor of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, writes about music on the Folk Roots/Folk Branches blog.