PE0264. SHIRIM KLEZMER ORCHESTRA: KLEZMER NUTCRACKER (Tchaikovsky goes to a Jewish Wedding). Newport Classic LC 8554, recorded 1997. Final Copy! - 032466564024
”A classic in its own right, Shirim's KLEZMER NUTCRACKER is a klezmerized version of Tchaikovsky's perennial favorite which delights the whole family. It will make klezmer aficionados plotz and leaves Tchaikovsky fans rolling on the floor with laughter. Combining the zany wit of Spike Jones with the class and craft of Duke Ellington, Shirim recasts the NUTCRACKER as a Hannukah classic with images of a dancing Potato Latkes Queen and marching Macabees. Emphasizing the Eastern European elements of the score with witty intelligence and playful irreverence, Shirim redefines the modern melting pot of ‘world music’. As is well known, Tchaikovsky was enjoying some latkes in a local shtetl many years ago, when, upon discovering the identity of the famous composers, the local musicians immediately up and grabbed their instruments. They introduced the composer to an entire repertoire: ‘Dance of the Latkes Queens’, ‘Dance of the Dreydls’, ‘Waltz of the Rugalah’, ‘March of the Macabees’, .... Entranced, the composer rushed home, changed a few names to avoid copyright problems, and a holiday classic was born! Now, at last, the wonderful musicologists of Shirim have reconstructed the original klezmer NUTCRACKER, restoring our national honor, while also deconstructing some of my other favorite composers (Brahms, certainly deserves deconstruction; Satie is only improved therein. And even an excerpt restoring Mahler's klezmer roots comes across splendidly. Can PDQ Bach be far behind?)
This album is sweet revenge for generations of awful, syruppy, bad, repetitive SWAN LAKES. The band is breathtakingly good. Friends who know the more familiar versions of the pieces have been reduced to tears of laughter. This album makes Tchaikovsky bearable. It is funny. It is danceable. And it is klezmer. That, and the fact that it features my homies, the world's best klezmer band, Shirim Klezmer Orchestra, makes this the perfect Chanukah treat. Listen to it whenever mere klezmer will do, and only classical klezmer will do; that, or only damn good, funny music.”
- Ari Davidow, 30 Oct. 1999
"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?"
- Matthew Robinson