Violinist Larry Brandt, a South African oleh, has been capturing the hearts of listeners for years with his contributions to the soulful music of Avraham Fried and Aharon Razel.
After over a year of hard work, Brandt - along with guitarist Nadav Bachar - has made waves with the release of his new solo album, Me'eyn Olam Haba - A Taste of the World to Come.
Arutz Sheva spoke to Brandt on Friday about the album and his journey to stardom after Aliyah.
A Passion for Israel
"South Africa has a very Zionist Jewish community and I always felt a strong connection to Israel, whether it was through the various shlichim (emissaries sent by the Jewish Agency) who came to serve in our community, or on Yom Ha'atzmaut, when more than 5000 Jews in my city gathered to celebrate together," Brandt explained. "It had been a childhood dream of mine to travel to Israel, and I fulfilled that dream in 2003 when I joined a Birthright trip from South Africa to Israel."
"While on the trip I auditioned for the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music (then called Rubin Academy) at Tel Aviv University and immediately got accepted to start my studies in violin performance," recalled Brandt.
While his talent for violin had featured in numerous Jewish events since he was a child, Brandt's violinist career really took off after making Aliyah from Cape Town in 2004. Since then, he has played in Israel and all over the world in symphony orchestras including the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music Symphony Orchestra, Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Brandt's passion for Jewish music has also been realized. So far, he has worked with two prominent Israeli Jewish musicians - Avraham Fried, and Aharon Razel.
Bringing Shabbat to Life
Me'eyn Olam Haba, recorded with guitarist Nadav Bachar, is Brandt's first solo album. The disc is a collection of "classic chassidic Shabbat nigguns performed on violin and guitar" and features a "unique arrangement" of passion and expertise.
"In this era of commercial music, it is hard to find music which is performed for the purpose of uplifting the music and listeners, and not just to showcase the ability of the musical arranger or the performers," the virtuoso reflected. "Especially regarding music which has been arranged and performed many times in the past, there is a tendency to want to re-invent and add to the music in order to be different."
"In my opinion, this often leads to the music becoming diluted, and distant from the original composer's intention."
"My intention with this disc was to try as best as I could to bring back the original essence of the holy nigguns that are within, and at the same time hopefully spiritually uplift the listener," he continued. "This concept proved to be very difficult, and a thin line had to be tread between making the melodies clear and simple, and at the same time bringing something new."
Brandt noted that the album includes several special features on a technical level, as well. The violin and guitar were recorded live, without a "click track"; the idea was to have a "natural and organic" flow - the full experience of being in a studio rather than hearing an edited selection of tracks.
The instrumentation for the album was also unique. "Bachar used a combination of acoustic and classical guitars," he added, "and one of the classical guitars was strung with three bass strings to give the effect of a bass guitar and to add depth to the harmony." Brandt's violin featured "wound gut" strings - not nylon - which give the music a "warm, organic feel."
Brandt's plans for the future include giving special concerts to give listeners the chance to "experience a taste of Shabbat even after Shabbat has come out."
"I hope to continue giving the joy of music to others," he concluded.
Ben Bresky contributed to this report.