When the Princeton Symphony Orchestra takes the stage on Jan. 29 it will feature clarinetist David Krakauer playing a piece with personal meaning composed by Wlad Marhulets.
Krakauer, who is from Manhattan, is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s most innovative and accomplished klezmer artists.
“The story behind this clarinet piece is a very charming one,” said orchestra operations manager Bryan McNamara.
Marhulets, a budding musical talent in his native Poland, found Krakauer’s klezmer music inspirational and decided he wanted to compose a piece for him.
“Wlad heard a recording of David Krakauer’s music and was blown away by the intensity of expression and David’s skill,” said McNamara of the genesis of the award-winning Concerto for Klezmer Clarinet to be performed as part of January’s “Un/Restrained” concert.
After hearing the recording, Marhulets, 16 years old at the time with relatively raw skills, according to McNamara, contacted Krakauer. The two corresponded for years and Marhulets eventually moved to New York and enrolled in Julliard, which Krakauer had also attended, leading to their collaboration.
Marhulets received the inaugural Azrieli Prize in Jewish Music this past spring for the piece, which is about 18 minutes long and performed in the standard concerto format of three movements, starting slowly and growing gradually faster.
“It’s very virtuosic and in many ways with David’s added skill, amazing,” McNamara said of the piece that was debuted by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 2009.
The idea to include klezmer music in an orchestra performance, for what McNamara thinks is the first time, came about when orchestra director Rossen Milanov decided to focus on personal and individual expression, said McNamara. The “Un/Restrained” concert also features American composer Saad Haddad’s “Manarah,” or beacon in Arabic. Haddad is noted for his fusion of classical with the Middle Eastern music of his heritage.
“We were thinking of other pieces and musicians to include who reflect that personal cultural expression, and David was the most obvious,” said McNamara.
In addition to Marhulets’s concerto, Krakauer will perform Osvaldo Golijov’s K’vakarat and his own arrangement of Der Heyser Bulgar and Synagogue Wail. The concert will also include Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony Op. 110a, an orchestration of the composer’s intensely personal String Quartet No. 8.
Krakauer’s music is infused with other styles that have influenced him over the years, including jazz, funk, and symphonic and can be described as “klezmer fusion,” said McNamara.
“He plays solo, he plays in groups, and performs with symphony orchestras,” he added. “His style is diverse.”