FANS of the Pressburger Klezmer Band have had to wait six years for a new album. But the band, which performs the traditional Jewish music of central and eastern Europe, have finally delivered a new CD of recordings, Tants Mit Mir or Let’s dance!, which they launched at a sold-out concert at the P.O. Hviezdoslav City Theatre in Bratislava on November 30.
Michael Szatmary, a musician himself, hosted the launch of the CD and in doing so employed a uniquely wry, Jewish sense of humour.
“Many of us have such a dilemma; Jewish music, Jews – and baptism,” Szatmary said, referring to the tradition in Slovakia of calling the launch of a CD or a book a ‘baptism’. “We all know that Jews do not baptise… When thinking about an equivalent the only one that came to mind was circumcision. But it seems to me strange to circumcise a CD because we could lose some good songs in this way.”
In the end he proposed to call the event simply an “introduction of the CD to life”, and members of the band and their musical guests duly toasted it with a glass of wine.
“This album is our musical walk,” the band writes in the CD’s liner notes, as it takes the band’s fans across various parts of eastern Europe, and apart from klezmer music offers songs from the Balkans and a combination of Jewish and Ruthenian melodies from eastern Slovakia and Sub-Carpathian Ukraine.
The Pressburger Klezmer Band invited several prominent guests from abroad to cooperate in the album’s production. Most of them performed at the launch of the CD, including clarinettist Merlin Shepherd from Great Britain, some of whose own compositions are included on the CD. Other foreign guests were the so-called Balkan accordion express Miroslav Vuković, from Bosnia and Herzegovina;
and the charismatic Anita Ribar, a singer, and percussionist Dalibor Martinov, both from Serbia. At the launch concert Michal Paľko from Mojše Band substituted for Marcel Comendant on dulcimer.
Peter Jantoščiak, composer for the leading Slovak folk ensemble Lúčnica, arranged the songs for the CD and himself attended the launch, along with Robert Pospiš and Martin Sillay from the publisher Real Music House. They stressed the live and spontaneous recordings on the CD, which had taken place in their studio, for which all the musicians had recorded the music together, without any overdubs or edits.
As the name of the CD indicates, it focuses on music for dancing, which gave Linda Luptáková and David Schimmer the opportunity to demonstrate to the audience how to perform the traditional dances to the songs included. It was a pity that the theatre did not allow room for dancing: the musicians, with their music and their enthusiastic and professional way of playing, made many in the auditorium yearn to do so.