Bio and Press

 

 

BIO

Alicia Svigals, a founder of the Grammy-winning Klezmatics, is a composer, vocalist and the world's foremost klezmer violinist, who almost singlehandedly rescued that fiddle tradition from the brink of extinction with her recording Fidl. She was an NEA MacDowell Fellow in 2014, an honor for first-time fellows of “extraordinary talent.” She was also a 2014 fellow at LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture in NYC, and received the Foundation for Jewish Culture's 2013 New Jewish Culture Network commission for her original score to the 1918 silent Pola Negri film The Yellow Ticket. She is currently working on the score to a feature film based on Gertrude Stein’s novella Brewsie and Willie, and is collaborating with author Sarah Schulman on a musical based on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s novel Enemies, A Love Story.

Svigals has taught and toured with violinist Itzhak Perlman, who recorded her compositions with the Klezmatics; she has also composed for the Kronos Quartet. She’s been featured in Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues at Madison Square Garden with Phoebe Snow, Glenn Close, Whoopi Goldberg, Susan Sarandon, and Brooke Shields; and Osvaldo Golijov was commissioned to create a work for her and clarinetist David Krakauer (then a fellow bandmember in the Klezmatics) entitled Rocketekiya , recorded on the Milken Archives label and performed at Merkin Concert Hall and Jazz at Lincoln Center.

In Svigals' band the Klezmatics, she created contemporary Jewish music that combined the Yiddish tradition with a postmodern aesthetic and progressive worldview. She co-led and toured with the band for seventeen years, recording albums which reached the top ten of the world music charts. With them she composed music for theater, dance and film: for Tony Kushner's A Dybbuk, first produced at the Public Theater in NY, and his work-in-progress It's an Undoing World, for filmmaker Judith Helfand's A Healthy Baby Girl, and for poet Allen Ginsburg and Israeli singer Chava Alberstein. Alicia’s multi-media event The Third Seder,featuring Tony Kushner, artist Neil Goldberg and the Klezmatics was presented by La Mama and by the Jewish Museum in New York , becoming the model for Michael Dorf’s Third Seder events. Alicia and the Klezmatics recorded two albums with violinist Itzhak Perlman, both featuring her compositions; they became the best-selling folk albums of all time, and the project was the subject of PBS documentary In the Fiddler’s House. They performed with Perlman on David Letterman, and at Radio City Music Hall, Tanglewood, and Wolf Trap.

Ms. Svigals plays and writes music in many genres, and she's recorded on projects from Avraham Fried's Avinu Malkeynu to the soundtrack to the L-Word. She wrote string quartet parts for singer Diane Birch’s debut, Bible Belt, and played Indian-style violin on Gary Lucas and Najma Akhtar’s Rishte. She’s appeared in stadiums with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, recorded for John Cale's Last Day On Earth and the Ben Folds Five's Whatever and Ever Amen, and John Zorn’s Cobra. She composed an Americana soundtrack to Judith Helfand's documentary The Uprising of 1934 with singer Peggy Seeger, arranged string quartets for singer Debbie Friedman at Carnegie, provided original music for choreographers Risa Jaroslow, at Lincoln Center, Naomi Goldberg at the Ford Theater in L..A. Her album Vodkazak, produced by Chabad rabbi Zalman Goldstein, feature her klezmer interpretations of Hasidic Nigunim, a rare production from that community featuring a female artist.  Svigals original live music accompanying author Thane Rosenbaum's readings from his novel the Golems of Gothem (with characters based in part on her!) was presented by a number of venues including the 92nd St. Y in NYC.  

Svigals also writes and lectures on Jewish music and culture. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
PRESS QUOTES
 
She is without question the greatest living exponent of the klezmer fiddle...Seth Rogovoy, author of The Essential Klezmer
 
Brilliant Fiddling...Rhythm Music Magazine
 
Her fiddle ruled...New  York Times
 
Violin playing with ...depth and urgency...L.A. Times
 
String work of uncommon beauty...Jazziz
 
Alicia Svigals' fiddling is sweet, strong and idiomatic...SingOut
 
Her sensitivity to string timbres was particularly affecting...Washington Post
 
Amazing gifts...Jewish Currents
 
Sinuous, demonic fiddle...Rootsworld
 
Alicia Svigals plays with inspiration and imagination; she has become one of the most distinctive instrumental voices in the klezmer idiom...the Jewish Forward
 
A violinist who makes her instrument sing as if it had a human voice...Willamette Week, Portland
 
Violinist Alicia Svigals...is a stunningly gifted player. She is equally capable of precise classical virtuosity as well as emotional abandon, and she delivered some of the concert's most transcendent moments...A succession of superlative solos...served to spiral the music into stratospheric realms unimagined in the music's original homeland...The Austin American Statesman
 
Alicia Svigals is an astonishingly agile violinist who climbs all over the fiddle with a passion that's as compelling in its nostalgic beauty as it is in its dazzling virtuousity... Reno Press
 
Listening to Alicia Svigals' violin wail...is nothing short of an ethereal musical experience, like turning an ear to heaven and listening ...The Jewish Reporter (Las Vegas)
 
The dimension her fiddle adds to their music stunned a recent Knitting Factory audience...improvisational magic...dazzling virtuosity...Staten Island Sunday Advance
 
Alicia Svigals is an aggressive player who tackles the florid licks with gusto... Reading Eagle (Reading, PA)
 
Alicia Svigals plays a hauntingly beautiful violin...Union News (Springfield, MA)
 
In [Svigals' composition] the Dybbuk Shers, Perlman plays a duet with the violinist of the Klezmatics, Alicia Svigals. The two parts are so brilliantly interwoven that it is impossible to figure out who plays which part. I found this extremely beautiful and dynamic song the climax of[In the Fiddler's House]....Morgunbladid (Reykjavik, Iceland)
 
Alicia Svigals' violin spins a web as delicate, intricate, and durable as a spider's...Popmatters
 
Gorgeous, fierce, profound, heart wrenching talent...utter intensity and vision...Obie winning playwright Eve Ensler
 
My list of musicians with the tremendous courage to open themselves completely would have to include violinists Alicia Svigals, Stuff Smith, Svend Asmussen, and of course Joe Venuti...jazz fiddler Paul Anastasio in Fiddler Magazine
 
Alicia Svigals' violin virtuousity was utterly astonishing...dazzling as her passion prodded the band to higher places... Saratoga Springs Times Union
 
Bluegrass has Alison Kraus. Classical music has Sarah Chang. And klezmer has Alicia Svigals, its very own violin virtuoso... JUF News
 
[Itzhak Perlman] really catches fire during his practice session [on PBS documentary In the Fiddler's House...I attribute much of that to the soulful wizardry of Svigals' klezmer fiddling ...which fairly sets Perlman's frizzy hair on end. They trade fiddles, then trade back, and he keeps looking at her, amazed.... Riverfront Times