Joel Rubin’s various ensembles, collaborations and special projects


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Poyln: A Gilgul, Veretski Pass and Joel Rubin


Recent concerts and workshops: KlezMore Festival, Vienna; Klezmerwelten Festival, Gelsenkirchen, Germany; Jüdische Kulturtage, Halle, Germany; Brotfabrik, Bonn, Germany, November 2017. more...

University of Virginia Klezmer Ensemble with Alan Bern
led by Joel Rubin
Old Cabell Hall, Charlottesville VA

The Joel Rubin/Alan Bern Reunion


The Joel Rubin/Alan Bern Reunion more...

Rubin Ensemble Budapest 2006 photo Anastasia Chernyavsky

Joel Rubin Ensemble

Recent concerts: Yiddish Summer Weimar Festival Week (2015); International Festival of Sacred Music, Fribourg, Switzerland, Les amis de la musique juive, Geneva, Switzerland (2014)

The Joel Rubin Ensemble was founded in Berlin in 1994, the first group dedicated to the performance of the classic eastern European Jewish instrumental klezmer repertoire of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It grew out of Rubin’s work with his earlier bands Brave Old World (1989-1992) and Rubin & Horowitz (1992-1994). The music of the ensemble is an expression of Rubin’s long-term meditation on the Russian-Jewish musical legacy. It is not, however, an attempt to recreate 19th century performance practice or otherwise hearken back to the topos of life in the Jewish shtetl; rather, the group brings together some of the world’s great improvising musicians to explore how Jewish music could sound at the beginning of the 21st century – music from another time and place, but thoroughly grounded in the present. The band creates its own sonic universe, full of depth, virtuosity, playfulness and introspection. The kaleidoscopic soundscape filters the many historical layers of traditional Jewish music through the lenses of the multifarious musical backgrounds of the band’s members, ranging from classical to Gypsy to free jazz to contemporary art music. Here the interaction of a great improvising jazz ensemble melds with the delicacy of a chamber music group and the drive of a hot wedding band at the cusp of klezmer, Roma (Gypsy) and other Eastern European traditions. more...

Rubin Rushefsky Greenman IMG_0685 photo Bruce Bierman

R2G Klezmer Trio (Rubin Rushefsky & Greenman)

R2G Klezmer Trio
Rubin Rushefsky & Greenman

Joel Rubin (clarinet)
Pete Rushefsky (tsimbl)
Steve Greenman (violin) more...

Joel Rubin and Uri Caine (photo by John Zorn)

Joel Rubin/Uri Caine Duo

Joel Rubin/Uri Caine Duo

Joel Rubin, clarinet
Uri Caine, keyboards more...

Joel Rubin & Pete Rushefsky Richmond Folk Festival 2009 Skip Rowland copy 2

Joel Rubin and Pete Rushefsky

Joel Rubin & Pete Rushefsky Duo

Just back from numerous successful performances as part of the International Klezmer Festival and the International Master Classes at the World Klezmer Center in Safed, Israel. more...

UVA Klezmer Ensemble Fall 2012

UVA Klezmer Ensemble under the direction of Joel Rubin

Official U.Va. Klezmer Ensemble webpage


Special Programs

Zloczow 1902

My little town Zloczow: A Survivor’s Memoir

Joel Rubin Ensemble with Roald Hoffmann.

Zloczow (now Zolochiv, Ukraine) was a thriving Polish-Jewish-Ukrainian town near Lwow/Lemberg. Then, during three years, 1941-44 the Jewish population perished in the Holocaust. One of the survivors, Roald Hoffmann, tells in his own words, in readings from others, and in poems, the story of the town, its rich religious and cultural heritage (reaching out to America through the Yiddish writer Moshe Leyb Halpern, the photographer Weegee and others). Hoffmann, who was named after the discoverer Roald Amundsen, received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in his new home America, while at the same time becoming known for his poems, essays, and plays. A lifelong connoisseur of music, Hoffmann’s memories of the musical traditions of his home town were revived by the music and research of Joel Rubin. Kindred spirits in their approaches to science, the arts, and religion, they began to perform together, drawing into the moving poetry and memoirs of Hoffmann and Rubin’s musical score the thoughts and the musical traditions of the great hasidic masters, one of whom was Yekhiel Mekhl, the Maggid of Zloczow. The program interweaves text with appropriate musical selections, including hasidic, cantorial and klezmer music from the region of Zloczow.

Dave Tarras solo CTMD Archive

The Tarras Legacy: Celebrating the King of American Klezmer Music

This special program was originally developed for the Center for Traditional Music and Dance in New York, to be performed at the beautifully restored Museum at Eldridge Street’s synagogue sanctuary. It features live performances as well as rare video footage and photographs of Dave Tarras from the Center for Traditional Music and Dance’s Archive. Clarinetist Dave Tarras (1895-1989) remains the most influential and well-known American klezmer musician of all time. Through his compositions, live performances and recordings, the Ukrainian-born virtuoso was the unrivaled leader in the creation of a uniquely American klezmer sound.

While the popularity of klezmer amongst American Jews declined precipitously after WWII, Tarras’s career was reborn in the late 1970’s through a project conducted by the Center for Traditional Music and Dance (then called the Balkan Arts Center). The project played a major role in sparking an international revival of klezmer, and thirty-one years after his death, Tarras remains an indelible force in the performance and conception of klezmer. more...

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The Nign of Reb Mendel: Hasidic Songs in Yiddish

The Joel Rubin Ensemble featuring Rabbi Eli Silberstein, voice

The Nign of Reb Mendel is a continuation of Rubin’s exploration of the intersection between the Jewish instrumental klezmer and Hasidic vocal traditions that began with Midnight Prayer. It grew out of the four years Rubin spent documenting the vocal repertoire of Rabbi Silberstein. Whereas Midnight Prayer featured instrumental versions of a number of Hasidic nigunim, this project integrates a Hasidic singer as a member of the klezmer ensemble, something that had not been done since the klezmer revival began in the 1970s. The singing of nigunim has occupied a unique position in Hasidic life since the emergence of the movement in mid-18th century eastern Europe. Songs and, especially, pure melody are seen as being capable of establishing a direct connection to God, without the interference of text. These beautiful melodies, which range from introspective shepherd’s laments to ecstatic dance tunes, have been created over the centuries by Hasidic rabbis and musicians and may be sung at many occasions: in the synagogue, at the Hasidic rebbe’s table, at sabbath and holiday gatherings, at life-cycle celebrations like the wedding, in the home, or today as popular music of Jews the world wide. It is the Yiddish song repertoire as it was cultivated among Hasidic and other religious Jews of eastern European heritage (e.g. Lithuanian ultra-orthodox) for over 250 years that forms the core of The Nign of Reb Mendel. Here we present largely unknown gems, such as the Nign of R. Meir Shapiro of Lublin and Geloybt bistu (Praised Are You), alongside chestnuts such as the Dudele of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev and Vos vet zayn? (What Will Happen?). By combining old Hasidic nigunim with the sound of instrumental klezmer music, the ensemble reunites two worlds, creating an aesthetic close to that which might perhaps have been heard by the Ba’al Shem Tov (founder of the Hasidic movement) or R. Shneur Zalman (founder of Chabad hasidism) and their descendents, yet which is thoroughly contemporary at the same time. more...