Shony Alex Braun – Continental Varieties

Keeping February rolling with this record I got for a dollar.  Lot of songs that are kind of mainstays of this blog so buying this was a no brainer.

The gypsy violinist of this record, Shony Alex Braun, was born in Transylvania,  in 1930.  I am not sure how truly gypsy he was, but he was half Jewish and as a result, survived the Holocaust serving time in both Auschwitz and Dachau. Braun credits his ability to play music as the reason for his survival.  He would later win a Pulitzer Prize for his composition “Symphony of The Holocaust” on 1994.  He moved to the US in the 1950’s and had a good career as a musician, composer, and actor.  He would die in Los Angeles in 2002 of pneumonia. The story below relates to how,  during the Holocaust, he was in a room with SS officers who wanted him to play for them.  Struck by nerves, he forgot every tune he knew.  When they threateningly approached him, he began to play the Blue Danube, despite both playing an instrument larger than he was used to and never playing that song before.  Pretty amazing story.

This album, released by Impromto Records, came out sometime but I am not sure when.  My best bet is the 1950’s.  Backed by his Continental Ensemble and pianist/arranger Gregory Stone, the album is a collection of very famous instrumental standards from around the world. All the ones I like are here, including “Autumn Leaves”, “Granada”, ” La Vie En Rose”, “Dark Eyes”, and “Havah Nagilah”.  Braun’s violin is excellent in that gypsy style.  Good arrangements.  Overall good album.  I also liked the brief history and influences of the composers of the tunes on the back cover.

Well, as much as I like those songs above, and despite how good Braun’s versions were, I decided to go a different route and post “Valse Pizzicato”, written by George Boulanger.  The song showcases Braun’s skill with the picking technique, a technique scorned by most violists of the time according to the back cover.  Pretty good little track.

Satisfactory.