Alicia Svigals and Donald Sosin have been bringing audiences to their feet throughout the US and Europe with their unique and stirring violin and piano scores for Jewish-themed silent films. Sosin is renowned silent film pianist and composer, and Svigals is the world's leading klezmer violinist and a founder of the Grammy-winning Klezmatics.  After meeting at a silent film festival in Italy, the two soon recorded their first original score for the 1923 German film The Ancient Law, followed by City Without Jews and The Man Without a World.

Their live performances are generously supported by the Sunrise Foundation for Education and the Arts.

Donald Sosin

Donald Sosin (pianist and composer)  has performed his silent film music at Lincoln Center, MoMA, the Kennedy Center, BAM, the National Gallery, and major film festivals in the US and abroad San Francisco, Telluride, Hollywood, Yorkshire, Pordenone, Bologna, Shanghai, Bangkok, Berlin, Vienna, Moscow, and Jecheon, South Korea . He records for Criterion, Kino, Milestone and TCM. He has worked with Alexander Payne, Isabella Rossellini, Dick Hyman, Comden and Green,  and has played for Mikhael Baryshnikov, Mary Travers, Marni Nixon, Howie Mandel, Geula Gill, and many others. He records for Criterion, Kino, Milestone, Flicker Alley and European labels, and his scores are heard frequently on TCM. He has had commissions from MoMA, EYE Amsterdam, Deutsche Kinemathek, L'Immagine Ritrovata, the Chicago Symphony Chorus, the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra.  He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Denver Silent Film Festival, and the Best Original Film Score award by the 2022 Mystic Film Festival.

photo credit: Mark Tomas

The Ancient Law

Ewald André Dupont’s 1923 silent film The Ancient Law (Das alte Gesetz) was digitally restored in 2017 by the Deutsche Kinemathek with generous support from the Sunrise Foundation for Education and the Arts. The film is an important piece of German-Jewish cinematic history, contrasting the closed world of an Eastern European shtetl with the liberal mores of 1860s Vienna. With its historically authentic set design and ensemble of prominent actors – all captured magnificently by cinematographer Theodor Sparkuhl – The Ancient Law is an outstanding example of the creativity of Jewish filmmakers in 1920s Germany. A brief synopsis: Baruch (Ernst Deutsch), the son of a rabbi, becomes fascinated by the theater. Against his father’s wishes, Baruch leaves home and finds his way to Vienna, where an archduchess at the imperial court (Henny Porten) falls in love with him. She becomes his patroness, facilitating his successful career as a classical actor. But Baruch continues to long for home, and must find a way to reconcile his religious heritage with his love of secular literature. The movie paints a complex portrait of the tension between tradition and modernity.  

Watch the trailer here.

The Man Without A World

In a preamble, The Man Without a World is credited to the legendary (and imaginary) 1920s Soviet director Yevgeny Antinov. But the film is anything but old. In fact, Antinov is the creation of contemporary filmmaker Eleanor Antin, who made the film in 1991 as an homage to the silent era and a love letter to her mother, a former actress in the Yiddish theater of Poland. In a Polish shtetl at the turn of the 20th century, the villagers struggle with both the antisemitism of the wider world and political infighting within their own community. Against this backdrop, two star-crossed lovers — merchant's daughter Rukheleh (Christine Berry) and impoverished Yiddish poet Zevi (Pier Marton) — seek happiness. But many obstacles come between them, including Rukheleh's disapproving parents, Zevi's dalliance with a seductive gypsy dancer (Antin) and the sufferings of Zevi's younger sister, Sooreleh (Anna Henriques), traumatized by a sexual assault in her youth and now subjected to exorcism rituals by local religious zealots.


Watch the trailer here.

The City Without Jews

The City Without Jews, (Die Stadt ohne Juden) H. K. Breslauer’s 1924 silent masterpiece, is based on the bestselling dystopian novel by Hugo Bettauer.  It was produced two years after the book’s publication and, tragically, shortly before the satirical events depicted in the fictional story transformed into all-too-horrific reality.   All complete prints were thought to be destroyed, but thanks to the discovery of a nitrate print in a Parisian flea market in 2015, this “lost” film can once again be appreciated in its unfortunately ever-relevant entirety.     Set in the Austrian city of Utopia (a thinly-disguised stand-in for Vienna), the story follows the political and personal consequences of an anti-Semitic law passed by the National Assembly forcing all Jews to leave the country. At first, the decision is met with celebration, but when the citizens of Utopia eventually come to terms with the loss of the Jewish population – and the resulting economic and cultural decline – the National Assembly must decide whether to invite the Jews back. Though darkly comedic in tone and stylistically influenced by German Expressionism, the film nonetheless contains ominous and eerily realistic sequences, such as shots of freight trains transporting Jews out of the city. The film’s stinging critique of Nazism is part of the reason it was no longer screened in public after 1933.

Watch the trailer here.

Praise for Svigals and Sosins' Cine-concerts

“Their performance was masterful, as the duo cleverly wove scored music with improvisation. The blending of the Eastern European Yiddish folklore-style melodies...with well-known synagogue cantorial pieces and Viennese classical excerpts sounded as authentic as Dupont could have ever imagined. The playing was confident, and each musician had the opportunity to shine. “

“The score’s incredible strength lies in the strong themes and exemplary performances, especially Svigals, whose impassioned solos...are devastating in their beauty.”


Dr. Mark Slobin, Professor Emeritus of Music, Wesleyan University

To speak to today’s audiences, what The Ancient Law needed was an intelligent, well-executed film score to carry viewers across the multiple social settings and characterizations, rife with internal conflict. An ideal team has done just that. Alicia Svigals, whose work on another silent film, The Yellow Ticket, was widely praised on her multi-city tours, combined with Donald Sosin, a titan of early-cinema scoring, to produce an unusually supple, accurate, thoughtful, and moving score. I saw it live at Lincoln Center and then on video, which only intensified my admiration for the soundtracks’ craft, accuracy, and emotional charge. To date, the Svigals-Sosin duo have performed it live some fifty-five times, to universal acclaim.


New York Music Daily:

Svigals is fresh off an absolutely delightful show late last month, when she teamed up with a frequent collaborator, pianist Donald Sosin for a live score to E.A. Dupont’s 1923 German silent film The Ancient Law at Temple Ansche Chesed on the Upper West. 

Beyond the movie – which is very sweet, and progressive even by the Weimar era’s avant garde standards – what was most impressive was what a fantastic classical violinist Svigals is. Following the film’s narrative, the music begins in a little village somewhere in the Pale (Sosin's starts out on accordion, appropriately), then suddenly shifts to cosmopolitan mid-19th century Vienna. That’s where the plaintive dirges and bristling freylachs suddenly make way for melancholy Schubert ballads, lively Mozart and, for verisimilitude, a few detours into Johann Strauss...

It was there that the split-second change in Svigals’ intonation and attack was most striking. All of a sudden those bracing overtones, and double-stops, and glissandos disappeared in favor of a crystalline, legato approach…and then made a welcome return when the plotline shifted back to the ghetto. Those old Jewish folk tunes have survived for a reason: they’re just plain gorgeous. Beyond the action on-screen, the moments when the duo were obviously jamming out solos over familiar minor-key changes were arguably the evening’s most adrenalizing, entertaining passages. ..

Svigals and Sosin have been touring their live movie score along with a screening shortly after the film was rescued from oblivion, digitized and sequenced to match the original print during what must have been a daunting restoration process. Without giving too much away, the main story concerns a rabbi’s son who runs off to the big city to become an actor. Tensions between father and son, tradition and modernity simmer and bubble, but the movie is basically a comedy: the moment where the rabbi finally picks up the forbidden volume of Shakespeare that the film’s Falstaff character has smuggled in is priceless...


Peter Benoliel, former president, Philadelphia Orchestra and board member at Marlboro Music Festival 

We were mesmerized! The music—the klezmer violin and piano score—magnified the story line and captured our hearts. It was really a wonderful 2+ hour experience.


Gina Glassman, professor, Binghamton University

People have been rushing up to me ever since to say how much they enjoyed themselves....- there's a unanimous, "Wow!" - on account of your masterful musicianship, the beauty of the score and performance, and not least, your incredible stamina.

there's unexpected responses from my colleagues. It seems to have literally blown their mind. Most cried, were profoundly moved by the whole thing. "The best thing I've ever gone to on campus" was said to me several times. The word, "Spectacular" has been dropped into conversation. And when I said you might do a return tour, people are visibly thrilled.

All of this to say, you have created an unusual response -... And then there's my students, who seem to be equally thrilled. embodied a possibility - of pleasure and truth, through music and a film - that clearly made a mark, in an immediate and important way.

So thank you both, for everything, and of course, for the fantastic conversations. I look forward to more,...r. I think I have fallen in love with silent film - and maybe this director - but your music is inextricable from this new "love affair"!

Till later,
and with many, many thanks!


Rabbi Lisa Grushcow, Temple Emanu-El Beth Sholom, Montreal  

What an amazing evening! I was absolutely blown away by the film and the music… What a gift to bring this story back to life for a very appreciative audience. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.


Yulia Nikitina, York University, Toronto

I wanted to express my deepest gratitude for your incredible performance at Sound & Sense: Jewish Music@York.  Your musical brilliance made the event unforgettable, and your talent truly moved everyone present.


Delarue, New York Music Daily blog

What was most impressive was what a fantastic classical violinist Svigals is...[and] the moments when the duo were obviously jamming out solos over familiar minor-key changes were arguably the evening’s most adrenalizing, entertaining passages.


Audience Feedback

"The cine-concert was amazing -- the astounding film itself, the score that you so carefully and lovingly crafted, and the exquisite way you both performed it. The whole experience was so wonderful that my only regret was that  I hadn't caught a performance sooner. Congratulations!”

“The silent film with live music score was incredible- quite an experience!”


· New York Jewish Film Festival at Lincoln Center 

· The Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor, MI 

· American Film Institute, Silver Springs, MD 

· DCJCC Music and Film Festival at AFI Silver 

· Center for Moving Image Arts, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 

· Schwartz/Reisman Centre, Toronto 

· Dartmouth College 

· University of Kentucky, Worsham Cinema, Lexington, KY 

· Swarthmore College, PA 

· New York Klezmer Series, NYC 

· Westchester Jewish Film Festival, Jacob Burns Film Center, Pleasantville, NY 

· Denver Silent Film Festival 

· National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia 

· Chicago Music Box Theater 

· Cleveland Museum of Art 

· Yale University 

· Cornell Cinema, Cornell University 

· San Francisco Silent Film Festival 

· San Diego Jewish Film Festival 

· Atlanta Jewish Film Festival 

· Le Giornate del Cinema Muto/Pordenone Silent Film Festival, Italy 

· Houston Cinema Arts Festival 

· Chicago Music Box Theater 

· Cleveland Institute of Art 

· Miami Jewish Film Festival 

· Cinema Arts Centre, Huntington NY 

· Boston Jewish Film Festival 

· Tompkins Corners Cultural Center, Putnam Valley, NY 

· Yidish Vokh, Eisenberg Camp, Copake NY 

· Oberlin College 

· Manhattan JCC, NYC 

· Bard SummerScape, Bard College, Annandale-on Hudson, NY 

· Art Kino, Rijeka, Croatia 

· Slovenia Festival of Tolerance, Mini Teater, Ljubljana 

· Slovenia Festival of Tolerance, Jewish Museum, Maribor 

· Slovenia Festival of Tolerance, Civic Auditorium, Kamnik 

· Slovenska Kinoteka, Ljubljana, Slovenia 

· Metro Kinokulturhaus, Vienna, Austria 

· Istanbul Silent Film Festival 

· University of Cincinatti 

· Illinois Holocaust Museum, Skokie 

· A4 Cafe, Bratislava, Slovakia 

· Istanbul Silent Film Festival 

- YIddishkayt Festival at Theater for the New City, NYC 

· Paramount Theater Seattle 

· Hobart and William Smith College 

· Kenyon College 

· Ashokan Cultural Center 

La Jolla JCC (San Diego area)

Villa Aurora artist residence, Los Angeles

Ball State University

Grinnell College

SUNY BInghamton Casadusus Hall

UC Berkeley Magnes Center

Santa Cruz Jewish Film Festival

Seattle Jewish Film Festival

The Jewish Theological Seminary, NY

Theatiner Filmtheater, Munich

Austrian Cultural Forum, Bratislava

Musee d'Art et d'histoire du Judaisme, Paris

Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam

CUNY Graduate Center, NY

York University, Toronto,

Emory University Performing Arts Studio

UVA, Old Cabell Hall

University of South Carolina, Columbia, Johnson Performance Hall

Webster University

Baruch Performing Arts Center, NY

Fairfield Arts and Convention Center, IA

Brown University, Grant Recital Hall

Berkshire Jewish Film Festival

JCC Krakow, Poland

Teatr Stary, Lublin, Poland

FDR Presidential Library and Museum, Hyde Park, NY

Cinemazero, Pordenone, Italy

Clark University, Traina Center for the Arts

Orpheum Theater, Saugerties

Museum of Jewish Heritage, NY

George Eastman Museum, Rochester

Le Moyne College, Syracuse

Princeton Garden Theatre

Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, Vancouver

Historic Theater of the Academy Center of the Arts, Lynchburg VA

UW Madison

SUNY Albany Performing Arts Center

The Center Theater, Jackson WY