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Classical Album of the Week: Israeli Mandolinist Avi Avital Blends Musical Worlds

September 10, 2018. A happy and healthy New Year to all our listeners celebrating the Jewish High Holidays! And for ALL our listeners, here’s our delightful Album of the Week: Between Worlds with Israeli mandolinist Avi Avital.

Avital is acclaimed for his recordings of Baroque classical masters J.S. Bach and Vivaldi. Between Worlds, released by Deutsche Grammophon in 2014, is something entirely different.

In it, the artist coalesces some famous friends from the jazz and world-music scenes, including accordionist Richard Galliano, klezmer clarinetist Giora Feidman, percussionist Itamar Doari, and others. Together, they charm us with infectious interpretations of music from around the globe.

Avital calls his own instrument a world ambassador: “Familiar and foreign, folkish and classical, the mandolin is both a musical chameleon and a seasoned traveler, and is the one voice that links the many varied pieces on the album, whether played by klezmer band or chamber ensemble.”

Klezmer makes an appearance here. We hear it in an improvisation stemming from a work by Israeli female composer Ora Bat-Chaim, and also in traditional Bulgarian music, from which klezmer shares its origins. Georgian composer Sulkhan Tsintsadze contributes to the folkloric elements in this album.

Avital and company remind us that some of the catchiest and most tuneful works in the classical repertoire have folk and gypsy roots. There’s Bela Bartok’s “Romanian Folk Dances,” Vittorio Monti’s “Czárdás,” and de Falla’s “Seven Popular Spanish Songs.” Villa-Lobos, Astor Piazzolla, and Ernst Bloch are compellingly represented. In the traditional Welsh tune “Hen Ferchetan,” with harpist Catrin Finch, Avital even journeys to Wales.

In making Between Worlds, Avital’s goal was to allow musicians to “forget borders,” and to forge connections “between genres, cultures and musical worlds.” In this Album of the Week you’ll want to listen to that message again and again.

Debra's last day on the air at WRTI was September 21st, 2021. She's now the radio host for The Metropolitan Opera. Read more here.