Halva - A Musical Exploration of Eastern Europe

Halva is the international ensemble with which Nicolaas Cottenie investigates the links between traditional Yiddish music and the music of the many cultures surrounding the Ashkenazim (the Yiddish-speaking Jews in Eastern-Europe): Greek, Hungarian, Turkish and even Western Classical Music.

The result is music that breathes a deep energy that invites to dance, with a touch of seriousness and moments of spiritual introspection here and there. It is music that speaks to the mind and the heart. Whereas Halva’s first album, The Sweetest Klezmer Orchestra (2019) stayed relatively close to the traditional sound of Yiddish music, on the second album, Dinner in Sofia (2021), Nicolaas Cottenie is looking for that place over the rainbow where Jewish, Bulgarian, Romanian, Greek and Middle Eastern music meet. His original, surprising and expressive compositions, played with an abundance of virtuosity and passion, come together to make a multi-facetted and gripping album. Moments of ecstatic energy contrast with subtle manipulations of sonic timbre in moments of introversion and reflection, delicately inviting the listener to float and dream away. The traditional sound of violins (Nicolaas Cottenie & Alina Bauer), clarinet (Anja Günther) and flutes & kaval (Marine Goldwaser) evoke the poetic beauty of the pre-modern world, harking back to a time when the only repetitive sounds to be heard were those of the trance-inducing rhythms of traveling orchestras who played through the night for dancers. The expert rhythm section, featuring accordion (Ira Shiran), cello (Eline Duerinck) and percussion (Robbe Kieckens), have ample opportunity to show what they are capable of.

Nicolaas Cottenie’s compositions connect both with the traditional sensibility of Eastern European music and the longings of modern music lovers, always finding new ways to sound fresh and inviting, interesting but still familiar. That was also the view of the jury in the Bubbe Awards, organized by the Instituto da Musica Judaica in Sao Paolo (Brasil), who awarded one of the core pieces of the new record, “Khosidl für das neue Leben” with the second prize in the category “Best New Instrumental Piece”.

Halva will captivate and enchant you. Welcome to a world of whirling virtuosity, mesmerizing beauty, benumbing sadness, light-hearted humor and never-ending dancing – come and join!

This music is the result of years of research he conducted, both in private study and at the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp (Belgium) into the historical connection between composition and improvisation, and he studied with some of the great masters of klezmer music.

You can order the two albums here.

Reviews

“Again and again the boundaries of sound and genre are explored, which happens in the refined arrangements in an unprecedented way: it is a totally new experience of klezmer music, nothing less than that. Bandleader and composer Nicolaas Cottenie is renovating klezmer music, for which he found an exquisite team. His courageous project is impressive in its determination and overflowing ideas.”

Giessener Allgemeine

“A complete klezmer album, offering a lot both to the connoisseur studying and recognising different influences and to the amateur looking for smooth dances and real melancholy.”

Opduvel.nl

“An album that I can barely get enough of.”

Rootstime Magazine

“This truly is one that is not to be forgotten!”

New Folk Sounds

“This is an amazing orchestra and a sublime album.”

Moors Magazine

The Band

Nicolaas Cottenie (BE) – violin | www.nicolaascottenie.eu
Alina Bauer (DE) – violin | www.alinabauer.eu
Ira Shiran (ISR) – accordion
Anja Günther (DE) – clarinet
Eline Duerinck (BE) – cello
Robbe Kieckens (BE) – percussion

Halva - 2020 Tour