The music of the historic Zimro Ensemble at Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival

Cellist Aron Zelkowicz, the founder and director of the Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival, has chosen the centenary anniversary to celebrate the historic Zimro Ensemble:

Formed in 1918 in St. Petersburg, Russia, by the clarinetist Simeon Bellison, the Zimro Ensemble introduced the world to Jewish concert works created during the previous decade. This innovative and exotic music combined folk themes and liturgical works to create a music that was proudly nationalistic with strong Zionist themes. The sextet’s name spoke to its Jewish roots, combining the Hebrew word for “singing” and an amalgam of letters from the word “klezmer.”

Organized by the Society for Jewish Folk Music, the curious project existed for only three years. It made its American debut at a Zionist conference in Chicago almost 100 years ago on Sept. 17, 1919. According to cellist Aron Zelkowicz, the tour was a fundraiser “to raise money for a ‘temple of Jewish art’ in what was then Palestine. The musicians ended up immigrating to the United States and never made it to Israel.”

Read more at the Jewish Chronicle.

The Pittsburgh concert, titled “In the Footsteps of the Zimro Ensemble,” is Sunday, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. at Rodef Shalom Congregation (4905 Fifth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213).

Pro Musica Hebraica’s Hanukkah 2013 concert, The Voice of the Clarinet in Jewish Classical Music featuring clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein, was the first to extensively showcase the early-20th-century work stored at the Bellison Archive. The bulk of the program featured newly recovered manuscripts from Bellison’s archive at the Jerusalem Conservatory, including his arrangements of works by Joel Engel, Jacob Weinberg, and Samuel Gardner based on Yiddish folk songs and virtuoso folk masterpieces drawn directly from the klezmer repertoire of the pre-World War I East European Jewish shtetl.