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Beregovski Suite with Alicia Svigals and Uli Geissendoerfer
Twenty years ago, Alicia Svigals released her groundbreaking album Fidl, the
first contemporary recording of the deep and ecstatic klezmer fiddle music which had
been beloved across Jewish Eastern Europe for hundreds of years. This year she follows
up Fidl with Beregovski Suite: a project with Grammy-nominated jazz
pianist Uli Geissendoerfer. Together they bring to life long-lost melodies from the
early 20th-century fieldwork of Moshe Beregovski...and re-imagine them for the 21st
In the 1930’s a Jewish scholar from the Ukraine named Moshe Beregovski set out, with eery prescience, to collect and preserve the deep and rich Jewish musical tradition around him. On what turned out to be the eve of the destruction of European Jewry, Beregovski organized expeditions to Ukrainian “shtetlekh” (small Jewish towns) and sought out the eldest singers and instrumentalists he could find, asking them to pour their collective folk knowledge into his recording horn. In this way he managed to save thousands of beautiful Jewish folk songs, klezmer dance tunes and religious melodies on wax cylinders, the medium of the day. A few years afterwards, the culture he had documented was destroyed in the Holocaust, and Beregovski himself was arrested and sent to the Gulag. He never saw his work published in his lifetime, and for decades it was thought that those precious and important recordings were gone forever as well. But in the 1980’s ethnomusicologist Mark Slobin published Beregovski’s transcriptions of his collection, and in the 1990’s, with the opening of the Soviet Union, the cylinders were unearthed in a dusty archive in Kiev. Now those long-forgotten melodies and voices are beginning to speak to us again.
Violinist Alicia Svigals is the world’s foremost klezmer fiddler and a founder of the Grammy-winning Klezmatics, who has collaborated with artists ranging from Itzhak Perlman to Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. Uli Geissendoerfer is a Grammy–nominated jazz and world music pianist and composer. Together Svigals and Geissendoerfer perform the melodies rescued by Beregovski, in settings that both recreate the lost world which gave them birth and re-contextualize them for the 21st century.