Even the greatest career starts out on a small scale. In the case of Giora Feidman, this was more than 70 years ago. It all began in Buenos Aires. Giora Feidman was born in Argentina on 25 March 1936 as the son of a Jewish immigrant from Bessarabia (Moldavia / southern Ukraine). Music was in his blood: His father was a musician, as was his grandfather.
"From the very beginning, from the day of my birth, songs have always accompanied me. It is the human voice, in almost every case, that is our first contact with music. A voice touches us with song, singing calms us, makes us happy. For me, it was the sound of the Yiddish songs that my mother sang for me when I was a very small boy - and later, as a young musician, it was the music of Schubert. I grew up with these widely varying sounds around me. I learned a great deal from both musical directions and both remain very dear to me even today."
The young Feidman grew up in the capital city of Buenos Aires, learned to play the clarinet, began already as a child to make music with his father at various festivals and parties and at 18 was eventually given the position of clarinetist at the Teatro Colon, the most renowned opera house in all of South America.
Just like hundreds of thousands of other Jews, he was also magically drawn to the newly-established state of Israel. In 1957, at the age of 21, he left Buenos Aires and, after a long and tedious passage, arrived in Haifa to finally enter the "Promised Land". He already had a contract with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in the bag, which had been arranged for him by the conductor of the orchestra, Paul Kletzki. Rehearsals already began on the very first day after his arrival there and Feidman had his first solo appearance during his first week with the orchestra. He arrived and settled immediately.
He would remain a faithful member of the orchestra for the next 18 years. During this phase of his life, he appeared with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra on many world tours and performed in practically all of the world's major concert halls under some of the most prestigious conductors of our time, such as Leonard Bernstein, Karl Münch, Raffael Kubelik, John Barbirolli and Eugene Ormandy, not to mention Zubin Mehta. These were fascinating years, indeed.
"Music is an all-encompassing language and the message is clear: We all belong to one big family of mankind."
"Now I found myself in Israel. I had finally come home."
A dream came true with the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, the result of a difficult fight and in the face of strong resistance. The 2,000 year old diaspora of a homeless people, spread across the entire face of the earth, had finally come to an end. Jews from every country flocked to Palestine.
In their spiritual luggage they carried with them the heavy burden of bitter experiences and injuries. But with them also came some wonderful recollections from the host cultures in which they had lived for so many years - and musical memories were included, as well. The concept of the "Melting Pot", typically thought of as describing the multicultural society of the United States of America, applies equally well to Israel.
This was to become the new surroundings of the clarinetist Giora Feidman: a cultural kaleidoscope of the most diversified colors, languages, traditions and sounds, which would now blend together in this young Israel. The Yiddish songs of the Jews in Eastern Europe turned out to be particularly influential. Feidman, who can speak neither Hebrew nor Yiddish upon his arrival in Israel, nor even English, soaked up all of this with vigor - and therein finds an image of himself. "Not until I actually set foot in Israel did I realize how important Jewish music would eventually become for me. There was no way I could have known then how much this music would one day alter and define both my life and my career as a musician." "Jewish songs are an inseparable and integral part of the Jewish culture and society. A tremendous spiritual profoundness is hidden in the simplicity of the melodies and, simultaneously, the Yiddish language is a powerful medium to articulate "life".
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