Monday, February 18, 2019
Violinist ALICIA SVIGALS is the world’s foremost klezmer fiddler and a founder of the Grammy-winning Klezmatics. She 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.
In the 1930s, a Jewish scholar from the Ukraine named Moshe Beregovski set out, with eerie 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 make thousands of recordings of beautiful Jewish folk songs, klezmer dance tunes and religious melodies on hundreds of wax cylinders, the medium of the day.
The culture Beregovski 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 though his transcriptions were published in the 1980s by ethnomusicologist Mark Slobin, for decades it was thought that those precious and important recordings were gone forever. Then in the 1990s, with the opening of the Soviet Union, the cylinders were unearthed in a dusty archive in Kiev, and now those long-forgotten melodies and voices are beginning to speak to us again.
The Beregovski Suite is the fruit of a longstanding project that Svigals and Geissendoerfer have been developing, to weave the melodies from the Beregovski collection into something new and alive, and to pass them along in this form to future generations of listeners and players.
Photos by Janna Waldinger, Art & Clarity Photography