Klezmer ( YIVO transcription of Yiddish כליזמר or קלעזמער, from Hebrew כלי זמר, clinical ("Device, vessel " ) and zemer ( "Song " ), literally meaning " vessel of song " in modern Hebrew " musical instruments, musicians ," a dating back to the Ashkenazi Judaism folk music tradition around the 15th century developed klezmorim called Volksmusikanten a tradition of secular, non-liturgical Jewish music you were based on religious traditions that date back to biblical times, .. their musical expression evolved, however, continues to the present day. Their repertoire consists primarily of music to accompany weddings and other celebrations.

Originally the term referred klezmer (plural klezmorim ) on the musicians. Only since the revival of this music in the United States in the 1970s, the term is used to designate the style of music. Until then, this music was mostly called " Yiddish " music. Under Klezmer is meant mainly instrumental music.

The notation "Klezmer " comes from the English, where the "z" for a voiced " s" stands.

  • 9.1 dance forms


The Klezmer music is easily recognizable by their characteristic reminiscent of the human voice melody lines. This does not happen as a stylistic equivalent, but in conscious imitation of the Chasan and para liturgical chant. There are krekhts, " sob " and dreydlekh, a sort of trill.


See also: Jewish Music

The Bible describes various occasions the orchestra and the musical work of the Levites. Although the destruction of the second temple in 70 years, many rabbis abandoned their music, the need remained to spread at celebrations such as weddings musical joy. The Klezmorim occupied this niche. The first known klezmer was Yakobius ben Yakobius ( 150 ), a Aulosspieler in Samaria. The first written record of Klezmorim dates from the 15th century. It is no less improbable that this music in today's klezmer music would be seen again, as the nature and structure of this music in all probability in the 19th century, from Bessarabia, where the main part of today's traditional repertoire was written.

The Klezmorim based their secular instrumental music to the liturgical vocal music of the synagogue, and in particular the cantor singing. However, the Klezmorim were - rather despised by the rabbis because of their traveling lifestyle - in other minstrels. The Klezmorim traveled and often played music together with Roma musicians, as they occupied a similar social rank. So they exerted a great mutual musical and linguistic influence on each other ( the extensive klezmer argot in Yiddish includes Roma borrowings on ).

The Klezmorim were valued for their musical abilities and their versatile repertoire, and were by no means restricted to playing pure klezmer music. Christian churches they took sometimes in service, and some classic Italian violin virtuoso picked at them suggestions. The local nobility estimated the best Klezmorim very high and often engaged her to his festivities.

Like other traveling musicians Klezmorim were frequently harassed by authorities. The continuing until the 19th century restrictions in Ukraine banned them playing loud sounding instruments. Consequently, the musicians attacked the violin, tsimbl (or hammered dulcimer) and other stringed instruments. Michael Joseph Gusikow, the first occurring before European concert audiences klezmer, played an invented his own xylophone, which he called " wood and straw instrument ' called. It resembled sound a chopping board and sparked enthusiastic comments with Felix Mendelssohn from; Liszt, however disapproving. Later, around 1855, under Alexander II of Russia, the Ukraine and gambling was permitted by sounding instruments. The clarinet soon replaced the violin as the preferred instrument. Also a development direction wind and percussion music was made when the Klezmorim were conscripted into military bands.

When the Jews left Eastern Europe and the shtetl, the klezmer culture spread worldwide, especially in the U.S.. First, the American Jews took little of the klezmer tradition, there lived only a few Yiddish folk song singer. In the 1920s the clarinetists Dave Tarras and Brandwein Naftule caused a short but influential revival. However, to the extent as the Jews took over the senior culture of the U.S., fell the popularity of klezmer and Jewish celebrations were increasingly accompanied by non-Jewish music.

Although the traditional performances lost their popularity, learned many famous Jewish composers of art music, such as Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and George Gershwin during their youth sustainable Klezmer influences. The most prominent example of such inspiration applies the clarinet glissando at the beginning of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue ( 1924). At the same time also discovered non-Jewish composers in the Klezmer music is a rich source of fascinating musical themes. Particularly Dmitri Shostakovich admired klezmer music for their association of ecstasy and human despair and cited several melodies in his chamber works such as the Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57 (1940 ), the 2nd Piano Trio E minor, Op. 67 (1944 ) and the 8.Streichquartett ( 1960).

In the 1970s it came with Giora Feidman, Zev Feldman, Andy Statman, The Klezmorim, and the Klezmer Conservatory Band at the top for a klezmer revival in the U.S. and Europe. They based their repertoire of old recordings and surviving klezmer musicians in the United States. Zev Feldman and Andy Statman could still learn from Dave Tarras personally and get him in 1979 yet to give a concert and record a record. In 1985, Henry Sapoznik the KlezKamp for training in klezmer and other Yiddish music.

In the 1990s, more and more ensembles and the popularity and proliferation of klezmer founded rose rapidly. In the USA and is Klezmer played a predominant part of Jewish musicians for a Jewish audience in Europe and especially in Germany, this is not so. Here the musicians and their audience are mostly not Jewish, Klezmer is understood primarily as a division of the genre world music.

The interest in the Klezmer has evolved in the avant-garde jazz; Musicians such as John Zorn and Don Byron united occasional klezmer with jazz music.

The range of styles within the Klezmer music is very big today. On the one hand, there are ensembles that have dedicated themselves to the performance practice of the 19th century such as Khevrisa and Budowitz. On the other hand, there are ensembles that combine klezmer music with other music such as jazz, pop, rock and ska, such as The Klezmatics.


Originally learned the young Klezmorim the songs from her family and in the bands of their parents. These traditions were interrupted, however, dramatically, especially by the Shoah ( Holocaust ). Undoubtedly a slight advantage for a lot of material lost, especially the wedding repertoire would have filled a period of several days, the former technology, however, was able to record only a few minutes. Fortunately, some older Klezmorim were able partially to remember this repertoire. Also, some transcriptions from the 19th century have been preserved.

Through the folk revival starting in the late 1960s klezmer became popular again in Europe and the end of the 20th century klezmer usually learned by Fake Books ( chord charts) and transcriptions of old recordings.

Song types

The Klezmer music includes dance music from fast to slow tempo

  • The Freylekhs ( shortened from a freylekhs shtikele " a joyous piece " ) a dance is in 2/4-cycle
  • The Bulgar, a round dance in a 8/8-Takt with emphasis on the 1st, 4th and 7th stroke, especially in America, the most popular of the dances
  • The Sher, a set dance in 2/4-cycle
  • The Khosidl in 2/4- or 4/4-time, named after the Hasidim, who danced it
  • The Hora or Zhok is a dance in Moldavian style in 3/8-time with an emphasis on 1st and 3rd beat
  • The Kolomeike is a fast and catchy dance in 2/4-cycle from Ukraine, named after the city Kolomea
  • The Terkish is a 4/4-Takt-Tanz as the Habanera
  • The Skotshne ( " hopping " )

In addition to these dances the Klezmorim also played other dances, but can not be counted in the Klezmer music

  • The Nigun, Pl Nigunim, is a melody that is sung in Hasidism. If Klezmorim play for Hasidim, these melodies are played by them instrumental
  • Waltzes were very popular, classical, Russian or Polish
  • The mazurka and polka, Polish or Czech dances were often played for Jews and non-Jews
  • Cakewalk were African-American folk dances, which were common even among Eastern European Jews in the early 20th century
  • The Czardas was a Hungarian among the Hungarian and Slovakian Jews as to the Carpathians popular dance. It starts slowly and gradually increase the pace
  • The Sirba, a Moldavian dance in 2/4-cycle that Hüpfschritte mark accompanied by the triplets in the melody
  • The resulting tango in Argentina was extremely popular in the 1930 world. Many Eastern European tangos are from the spring of Jewish composers

In addition, there are not specific for the dance types

  • The Doina is usually listed as an improvised solo lament and is at a wedding as an indispensable part. It is of expressive vocal quality as the singing of the Chazzan. Although no form in the above sense, the music is not random in the Jewish style - the musician works with clear references to the Jewish prayer and East European dirge. Usually it is with violin ( fiddle ) and dulcimer ( tsimbl ) or clarinet listed; but otherwise can also variable instruments from banjo to xylophone be selected. Frequently, when Doina at the first set of a three-movement piece, followed by Hora and then either a Freylekhs or Khusidl. The Romanian Doina has a vital, rhythmically free vocals in the form of song or a melody instrument, usually a small ensemble accompanied by a given harmonic scheme, have the harmonies to change according to the specifications of the main voice. The plaintive character is comparable to the blues or the Portuguese fado in both cases.
  • Taksim - usually a Freylekhs - is a free Prelude (Prelude ), which presents the motives of the following piece; He has been largely supplanted in the early 20th century through the Doina.
  • A Fantazi respectively. Imagination is a free traditionally played during the Jewish wedding feast song, which is similar to the Fantasia of light classical music.


Most klezmer songs are divided into sections, each in a different key; often alternating between major and minor. The instrumental pieces often follow the oriental harmonies, such as the Greek music while Yiddish vocal works are often structured simple, and similar in style and harmony to the Russian folk song.

The song's final runs Chromatic or as glissando, followed by a slow staccato 8-5-1.


The orchestration in the Klezmer music has changed over time.

A typical ensemble in the 18th and 19th centuries included the first violin and second violin (also called secondary ), a tsimbl ( or dulcimer dulcimer), a bass or cello and sometimes flute. The melody is generally assigned to the violin, while the other instruments provide the harmony and rhythm, and other (usually the second violin) counterpoint.

In the 19th century, also a frame drum was used as a percussion instrument. Later this was replaced by a bass drum on which a basin is mounted, called Poyk that came from the military music. Ever had the military music of the Czar's army major impact on the instrumentation of klezmer music. Thus, the violin has been replaced by the clarinet as a solo instrument. Furthermore, as trumpet, horn, tuba and trombone various brass instruments were used. Large orchestras were often consists of 12 to 15 players.

In the United States in the early 20th century, the piano has been increasingly used, and later the accordion, which pushed the tsimbl. As a percussion instrument is established the snare drum. In the 1950s and 1960s and the saxophone played a role as an accompanying instrument, which played the second voice. In the course of the revival eventually became the mandolin to a more or less typical klezmer instrument.


Klezmer was originally a dance to certain music; Accordingly, the pace has been adapted to the dancers, depending on whether fatigued or fresher dancers were added. Like other musicians (eg, jazz musicians ) followed the early Klezmorim not exactly a rigorous basic beat. Man " kidnapped " or accelerated the tune by feel.

The modes

The determining factor in the Klezmer music are certain modes.

Ahavo Rabo

Ahavo Rabo Ahava Raba or (Hebrew " Big Love " ) refers to the morning prayer ( Shacharit ). The mode is also called in Yiddish " Freygish ", where " freygish " is not simply the Yiddish word for Phrygian and referred to the same mode, but refers to the Phrygian dominant scale. Characteristic is the augmented second between the second and third stage.


Misheberakh (Hebrew "He who blesses " ), after the beginning of the recited after the Torah reading prayer of altered Ukrainian, Doina, or of altered Dorian is also Ukrainian, called. The key is similar to the minor scale, but has an increased level 4.

Adonoi Moloch

Adonoi Moloch (Hebrew " the Lord reigns " ) often sung in the traditional Synagogalgottesdienst opened many psalms. It is similar to the Western Mixolydian and the Arabic maqam Siga.

Mogen Ovos (Hebrew " sign of our ancestors ") is a senior Synagogaltonart, coming from the Friday evening prayer. It is similar to the Western minor scale as well as the Arab Bayat maqamat, and Bayat - Nava.


In Yishtabach (Hebrew " blessed be He ," the beginning of a recited in the daily morning prayer, prayer ), the second and fifth stage is often lowered. See above Mogen Ovos.

Musical forms

Dance forms

  • Bulgar
  • Freylekh
  • Honga
  • Hora
  • Khosidl
  • Kolomeike
  • Sher
  • Sirba
  • Terkish
  • Waltz

Important musicians and groups


  • David Orlowsky
  • Dave Tarras
  • Naftule brandy
  • Sid Beckerman
  • Max Epstein
  • Irith Gabriely
  • Joel Rubin
  • Kurt Bjorling
  • David Krakauer
  • Andy Statman
  • Giora Feidman
  • Helmut Eisel
  • Harry Timmermann
  • Christian Dawid
  • Igor Ginzburg
  • Wlady Ginzburg
  • Michael Heitzler


  • Arn - Moyshe Cholodenko
  • Roswitha Dasch
  • Steven Greenman
  • Abe Schwartz
  • Alicia Svigals


  • Alan Bern
  • Heiner woman village
  • Joshua Horowitz
  • Oleg Nehls
  • Franka Lampe
  • Mishka Ziganoff



  • Amsterdam Klezmer Band
  • Upwind
  • Balkan Beat Box
  • Bester Quartet, before 1 January 2007 The Cracow Klezmer Band
  • Boom Pam
  • Brave Old World
  • Budowitz
  • Budapest Klezmer Band
  • Khalil
  • Chelesta
  • Colalaila
  • Dance of Joy
  • De'Ganew 's
  • The Yankele Chapel
  • Ensemble DRAj
  • Ensemble Noisten
  • The Epstein Brothers Orchestra
  • Patiently and Thimann
  • Gitanes Blondes
  • Harry's Freilach
  • Yiddish Swing Orchestra
  • Jontef
  • Kapelye
  • Klezmer Juice
  • KlezPO ( Klezmer Orchestra Project, Göttingen )
  • Kol Simcha - The World Quintet
  • Komatcha Klezmer
  • Kroke
  • Max Klezmer Band
  • Ma Piroshka
  • Naftule 's Dream
  • Nayekhovichi
  • Oi Va Voi
  • Ot Azoj Klezmer Band
  • Rzezow Klezmer Band
  • The Klezmatics
  • The Klezmer Conservatory Band
  • The Klezmorim
  • Klezmers Techter
  • POZA
  • Klezmer Alliance
  • Schnaftl Ufftschik
  • Schikker wi Lot


  • Mark Aizikovitch
  • Lin Jaldati
  • Jalda Rebling
  • Karsten Troyke