Report from Klezmer Festival Fürth

Last month I had the great pleasure of joining the teaching staff of the bi-annual Klezmer Festival Fürth in Germany. It's a lot like the other Klez Kamp knockoffs that have sprung up around the world, but this one is only a weekend long and hyper intensive. Josh Hororwitz leads the staff and I was tapped by Alex Kontorovich to perform with a German Goldenshteyn tribute ensemble.

It was a LONG flight from Austin to Atlanta, then Paris, finally to Nurenburg and then a short drive (with a wonderfully pleasant driver) to the old town of Fürth. Lucky for me, the event was run with typically European efficiency; a mixture of respect, conviviality and payment in a currency that isn't tanking a little bit more every day. I was also pleased to find a bar with a fine selection of Cuban cigars, which I relished smoking at every free moment. Yup, they really are that much better than the Dominicans we poor Yankees get now.

High lights for me included playing and hanging out with the Hungarian members of Budowitz, who by the way sounded simply amazing at their Thursday night concert. Along with the estimable talents my old pal Cookie on fiddle and Christian Dawid on reeds, Josh's early music approach to Jewish music was made all the more relevant and vibrant by this "Mutt & Jeff" trio of Tanzhaus musicians. Besides being some of the finest players I've been around, and I'm referring to the rest of Budowitz for instance, these cats bring a joi de vrie to their playing, on stage and off, that is simply inspiring. I sat in on their workshop when I wasn't teaching and as per usual learned more myself than the students, maybe. (Their names are Tamás Gombai, Sándor D.Tóth and Zsolt Kürtösi in case you were wondering No, I can't pronounce them either.)

For the first day I was teaching ensemble performance along side Aaron Alexander and Dan Blacksburg who as usual did most of the heavy lifting. They had to split the next day, so it was left me to to rehearse the student ensemble. These students I found to be at turns eager to learn and techincally quite advanced not only on their instruments, but in style and repertoire. Jewish music has really made deep inroads in Germany, with repercussions I can hardly imagine.

Well, after a day of teaching from 8am-5pm, it was back to the hotel, and quick bite at the venue's own restaurant and then straight to a performance. The German Goldenshteyn ensemble featured all but 2 folks who played on his CD, and in their absence the addition of all the members of Budowitz. It was a mighty big band, but with almost no rehearsal (adhering to the Frank London school of "it's all in the casting" style of band leadership) young Kontorovich did an admirable job of intoning German's material. Hard to do when the tuba player was weeping uncontrollably between sets.

OK, so the next day it's more 8-5 teaching offset by a lovely lunch with a new best friend, Vira Lozinsky . She was born in Moldavia and raised in Israel, she came as vocal instructor. She's a "keeper" as we say back home, a fine combination of wit, skill and talent. This is deep praise, as many of you know how much I don't normally care for singers. But I hear she cut a record with Toronto's Beyond the Pale, and I'll be looking for it.

So then there was the student concert. I'll let the local press take it from here:

Ok, so it's in German and small, so here's a translation from Josh:

"The eleven teachers gave their all to take the 55 students under their wing. The spontaneously formed combos sounded as if they had already been playing for ages with each other. Perhaps the secret was to choose pieces that lay well, often ones in slower tempo, but in the completely full hall of the Klangforum (Culture Hall,) one didn’t notice that. Mark Rubin, one of the few musicians who waves the klezmer flag high in Texas, distinguished himself virtuosically amidst his students...."

The smiling clarinet player from the newspaper photo, Katrin, is who sent me the clipping. After the show, she told me she felt terrible and that she and her fellow students didn't do a good job. I assured her that nothing could be further from the truth, and I promised her I wasn't lying. I very glad to see the local reporter backed me up on that point.

With any luck I'll see some of these same folks at the Klezmer Week in in Weimar, where I'll be on staff as part of the Other Europeans' project.