The Swedish clarinetist Martin Fröst and the Verbier Festival Orchestra blaze through an arrangement of “Let’s Be Happy” by the klezmer virtuoso Giora Feidman. Fröst played this at Carnegie Hall last December with the strings of the Risør Festival, and brought down the house. Worth comparing with Feidman’s much more raucous original:
Instead of Fröst’s jaw-dropping double-tonguing, Feidman howls, squeaks, and growls. Is Fröst breaking down boundaries, or sanitizing something “authentic” (whatever that means)? Is classical hypervirtuosic and artificial, while popular music is more daring and, uh, honest? These were the terms the New York Times pop critic used when discussing La Scoopenda’s (I mean, Renee Fleming’s) crossover album with Anthony Tommasini. But I don’t hear such a simple polarity, with such oversimplified claims to authenticity, in Fröst and Feidman. There must be a more nuanced way of comparing the classical and the popular than this.