Brave Old World
Dus Gezang Fin Geto Lodzh [Song of the Lodz Ghetto] (Winter and Winter Music 910 104-2, 2005)
True to their name, the quartet known as Brave Old World take a keen interest in traditional music, specifically music rooted in Jewish tradition and Yiddish linguistics. This new recording of theirs is based on and around music created in the Jewish ghetto of Lodz, Poland during the Nazi occupation of 1940 to 1944. It’s an ambitious work, sometimes sounding as grand as classical music though often possessing the infectious whimsy of Klezmer or the deft precision of jazz.
Despite the brutality the Nazis imposed on the Lodz ghetto Jews (their numbers dwindled from 230,000 to less than a thousand survivors at the end of the war), the music of the place could often be defiantly sharp in addition to understandably somber. The former is evident in such songs as “A Really Fine
Mazltov,” which gives a tongue-in-cheek shout out to the denizens of other Polish ghettos (Warsaw, Krakow, Vilna, Bialystock), while the more overtly satirical tracks take pointed shots at the desperation to simply survive and the questionable tactics of ghetto leader Chaim Rumkowski, who was widely thought to be a corrupt appeaser of the Nazi authorities.
Considerably starker are songs like “Close Your Eyes,” something of a reality check as to the hopelessness of the situation. But Brave Old World is not simply seeking to paint a musical picture of a tragic time and place.
The cultural divides and intolerance of far more recent times are felt, most obviously in the lament of the original composition “Berlin 1990.” And the band’s musical palette of piano, violin, clarinet, accordion, guitar, contrabass and cymbalom brings it all together in stark and colorful tones throughout. Delicate yet powerful, this fine disc revisits a dark era but places it in the ongoing concerns of the present.
Buy Dus Gezang Fin Geto Lodzh [Song of the Lodz Ghetto]