The close approaches between Western, specifically American, concert music and Jewish traditional music are well known. Operatic artists Jan Peerce and Robert Merrill both started their careers as cantors, and the Jewish tradition has generated several important repertory works. But what you hold in your hand (or under your mouse) is something different. Violinist Itzhak Perlman describes it as a crossover album involving classical and cantorial music. The Jewish cantor, unlike a monk chanting liturgy, has considerable freedom in his choice of material, and the music here is drawn from various sources: all of it is religious, but it does not come from a strict liturgical tradition. Rather, it includes, in the words of annotator Jim Bessman, "elements of Yiddish folk song and theater music, Hassidic song and prayer, and klezmer music." Often they reflect dreams of a displaced people. To these are added two orchestral layers, one provided by the Klezmer Conservatory Orchestra of musical supervisor and co-producer Hankus Netsky, and the other by a group of string players drawn from among Perlman's students. Then there is the violin of Perlman himself, who heard this kind of material as a child in Israel and plainly found it natural to merge it with his own artistry. The whole thing may seem like an unlikely candidate for a major-label classical release, but the many sources of the music are quite elegantly woven together. The reactions of those without a religious connection to the music are likely to depend on how they feel about the voice of cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, which may be an acquired taste. Sample it and consider the idea of delving further into one of Sony's more unusual releases.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim