Brave Old World was one of the seminal bands of the second generation of players in the Klezmer Revival, which began in the late 1970s. The group was formed in 1989, by clarinetist Joel Rubin and accordionist Alan Bern, joined by the singer and violinist Michael Alpert and bassist Stuart Brotman. In 1992, Rubin left the group and was replaced on clarinet by Kurt Bjorling.  The Washington Post wrote:  Brave Old World is “the revival’s first supergroup. Every player is a virtuoso.” In 1992, the group won first prize at the International Klezmer Festival in Safed, Israel.

The ambition of Brave Old World, as expressed by Alan Bern, who became its musical director, was to create new Jewish music for the concert stage, a repertoire performed in such a way as to appeal to the listener’s intellect as well as to the heart. The group was reacting against the prevailing attitude of audiences in the earlier, first flowering of the klezmer revival, which was that klezmer music was principally celebratory or dance music. Brave Old World studied and drew upon the late nineteenth century European repertoire and styles of Yiddish music to adapt pieces and create new works that expressed a range of emotions rooted in the life experience of Jewish communities in the modern world. The group presented its musical creations with the seriousness and intensity of a classical chamber music ensemble and invited audiences to respond in kind.

This concert recording captures Brave Old World after the release of two of its most ambitious recordings, Blood Oranges (1999) and Bless the Fire (2003), and contains selections from both of those CDs. The concert features Alan Bern on piano, accordion, and melodica, Kurt Bjorling on clarinet and bass clarinet, Stuart Brotman on bass and tsimbl (hammered dulcimer), and Michael Alpert, singer and violinist. This concert was presented by KlezKanada, the Montreal summer Yiddish music festival, with which Brave Old World had a close association for more than a decade and where Michael Alpert was the festival’s co-artistic director for many years. Though Brave Old World has performed infrequently in recent years, all four members of the group continue to be active as performers in various other ensembles and as teachers for students of Yiddish music in North America and Europe.

Year of Release: 2006
Running Time: 1 hr 45 min
Production Company: Sun-Street Productions
Production Format:  NTSC (4:3) Video
Available Formats:  DVD, MP4 Download


Produced, directed and edited by

Video cameras

Sound recording

Sound Mix

All musical works on this DVD are published by JA/NEIN Musikverlag GmbH (GEMA), Hamburg, Germany

Recorded at a concert sponsored by KLEZKANADA, Festival of Yiddish Culture, April 2000, Montreal



This is a monster concert, featuring much of the music from their “Royte Pomerantsen” and “Bless the Fire” CDs, in front of a friendly audience (Montreal, at a fundraiser for KlezKanada), with the band as tight as one can imagine, playing as if their very playing would bring the Messiah here and now. Indeed, after watching the DVD, one wonders how the Messiah is able to stay up in the heavens rather than come join us already.

When I watch Brave Old World in concert—in real life, and here, as well, I am always struck by how intense their playing is….Some pieces that never turned me on, on record, like the Itzik Manger poetry recited in “Der mentsh trakht un lakht” and reset on “Yankl Dudl” make perfect, ethereal sense here, live (oh, for joy, watch Stu’s fingers with the tsimbl hammers while the band plays “Yankl Dudl”). Then, listening to Michael introducing the band before breaking into “Royte Pomarantsn,” one of my favorite all-time songs here performed with the zest and life that it demands, I smile so happy.

…Visit videographer David Kaufman’s website (he that produced this masterpiece). Tell ’em I sent you. Order a dozen. They’re cheaper that way, and with a DVD this compelling, you can easily give out that many over the holidays.

Ari Davidow, Klezmer Shack, Nov. 15, 2006