Zidovske Pisne (Hebrew Songs)

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Zidovské Písne/Hebrew Songs collects 16 traditional Hebraic songs performed by the quartet Chesed. Unlike ensembles like the Klezmatics, this group focuses on the power of the texts and melodies instead of the energy found in some Jewish music. The voices of Zuzana Wirthovám and Monika Brenková, soprano and alto, are the real interest of this album. Their interpretations have charm, emotion, and simply ring true -- the most important quality for a record aiming at reproducing tradition instead of revamping it. The instrumental accompaniment is kept simple but elegant, often limited to Kamila Dolecková's violin and Jan-Matej Rak's acoustic guitar (the latter takes out his accordion for a couple of tunes). The mood shifts frequently between hurting ballads ("Hine Chenej," beautiful) and festive praises ("Lach Jerusalajim," "Ad de lo Jada"). The bonus track, "Tumbalalajka," strays away from liturgical contents to provide a feeling of Yiddish party song. At 38 minutes in duration, Zidovské Písne/Hebrew Songs is a bit short, but the sustained interest of the performances largely compensates it. Klezmer fans will probably find this CD too soft spoken and lacking virtuoso fiddling, but those interested in beautiful voices will be delighted.

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