‘Different Strings’ Attached For Juilliard Musicians


When Barrett Hipes was looking for someone to curate a concert of World War II-era Jewish music to be presented by the Juilliard School at the Museum at Eldridge Street, he knew immediately to whom he would turn: Remy Yulzari. He knew the opportunity would be more than a gig for him; it would be an act of faith.

Hipes is Juilliard’s assistant director of career services, a job that calls for him to know the repertoire of the school’s 800 students and many recent graduates. Yulzari is the first classical double-bassist to graduate from Juilliard’s artists’ diploma program and, as Hipes said, “He has presented a number of events in which he drew on the klezmer and Sephardic music influences he grew up with.”

More than that, the French-born bass player has vivid memories of his grandmother, and he brought those recollections to bear when he put together the program, “Following Different Strings” (Sunday, Nov. 17, 3 p.m., 12 Eldridge St. [212] 219-0888, x205 or go to www.eldridgestreet.org).

“I was particularly interested in the Czech composers, Gideon Klein and Erwin Schulhoff,” Yulzari said in a phone interview squeezed into a break in rehearsals. “My own grandmother was born in Czechoslovakia and went through the camps. She was more fortunate than they were, she survived.”

When he put the concert together, Yulzari was very conscious of the vastly differing destinies of the Jewish composers whose work he drew upon.

“Some didn’t survive, others escaped, usually to the United States,” he says.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Joseph Achron and Ernest Bloch, each of whom is represented in the program, came to the U.S. in the 1920s and early ’30s.

Yulzari focused his attentions on string quintet music, one of his many specialties. He also “did a lot of arrangements” to transform a few of the works into pieces for five instrumentalists.

“I wanted to hear a lot of different colors musically,” he explained. “Some of the music already sounded old-fashioned, some of it is hopeful, some more experimental. It’s nice to see all these different colors coming from people [with a common background].”

At the center of the concert is the Aeolus Quartet. Speaking from his Juilliard office, Hipes explained, “We had a brand-new graduate string quartet coming in at the beginning of the school year. They are really into learning new music and connecting to new audiences. Putting them together with Remy was a perfect synergy.”

Add to the mix violinist Julia Glenn and cellist Patrick McGuire, who had been working on the Schulhoff duo for cello and violin, and the picture was complete.

Is there a common thread that unites these five disparate composers beyond the accident of birth that made them Eastern European Jews? Yulzari thinks so.

“There are a lot of folk elements that connects the music to its geographic origins strongly,” he said. “You have a lot of Moravian elements in the Klein, Jewish folk melodies in the Achron and Bloch, Gypsy influence in the Schulhoff. These composers all had really strong roots that the music comes from. It comes from the people they were surrounded by.”