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Happily the beautifully presented collection testifies to admirable research by two leading ethnomusicologists and expert exponents of Jewish music: Aron Saltiel, born in Istanbul and based in Austria where he is a member of various Yiddish and Ladino ensembles, and Joshua Horovitz, wide ranging scholar and director of the Klezmer group Budowitz. The anthology includes a list of 'informants' who supplied and sang and recorded the melodies, including many from various centres of the Ottoman Empire, Salonika, and Istanbul. In their very useful introductory notes, the authors highlight how the melodies are presented in a 'representative' form, meaning that in performance practice there are many variants due to improvisatory practice by the singers, and in recording them some variations occur due to local differences. Thus the melodies require interpretation through knowledge of style, which is discussed in some detail.

While it would also have been fascinating to have a follow up commentary with some historical context for the songs, and the provenance of the melodies, this was the focus of the remarks by Dr Hilary Pomeroy, who described the volume, pointing out that many of the texts are from the modern period, referring to events and ideas of the 20th century, in contrast to the ancient pre Castilian Spanish ballads or Romanceros, some of which feature in her own recently published book: An Edition And Study of the Secular Ballads in the Sephardic Ballad Notebook of Halia Isaac Cohen (Lightning Source Inc, 2005; ISBN 1588710254). Indeed there are references to early Zionist ideas, to the fire of Salonika and to the tobacco factories. One of the intriguing and attractive aspects of the collection is the inclusion of some famous early texts set to unfamiliar melodies, such as 'Abre tu puerta serrada', 'Durme durme, mi linda donzella', and indeed there are some songs which, both as texts and melodies, are scarcely available anywhere, which gives the volume its significance.

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Copyright © 27 March 2006 Malcolm Miller, London UK


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