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Moisei Iakovlevich Beregovsky (Russian: Моисей Яковлевич Береговский) (1892 – 1961) (the Hebrew first name is משה Moshe-for Moses, surname Beregovski or Beregovskii,in Yiddish בערעגאווסקי), was a Soviet era (currently split between the Russian and Ukrainian) Jewish folklorist and ethnomusicologist. He has been called the "foremost ethnomusicologist of Eastern European Jewry".[1] His research gathered melodies and words of Yiddish folk songs, wordless melodies (nigunim), as well as Eastern European Jewish dance melodies (klezmer music).



Beregovsky was born into the family of a Jewish parochial elementary school teacher in the village of Termakhovka, then in the Kiev Governorate of the Russian Empire. As a child he participated as a boy-chorister in a local synagogue. He studied in the conservatories of Kiev (composition and cello in 1915–1920) and Petrograd (1922–1924). He also worked as a vocal coach in Jewish orphanages in Petrograd and Moscow under Joel Engel. In 1928–1936 he was the head of Musical Folklore section of the Institute for Jewish Proletarian Arts of the Sciences Academy of the Ukrainian SSR. In 1936–1949 he was a researcher in the Institute for Language and Literature, head of the Office of Folklore of Jewish Arts Section of Sciences Academy of Ukrainian SSR, head of the Office for musical ethnography. He was a teacher in the Kiev Conservatory from 1947 (sections of music theory and folklore).

From roughly 1929 to 1947, Beregovsky made ethnographic trips collecting secular Jewish music in various parts of Ukraine. His works make up the largest and most carefully notated collection of its kind in prewar Europe. Mark Slobin, who arranged and republished much of Beregovsky's collection in the United States, has said in an interview that Beregovsky "was the only person to do this for Yiddish music, and he was an excellent ethnomusicologist."[2] He made roughly 2,000 field recordings on 700 phonograph cylinders.[3]

In 1944, Beregovksy received his Ph.D. from the Moscow Conservatory, writing his dissertation on the topic of Jewish instrumental folk music.[3] He worked to meticulously expand the work of previous Eastern European Jewish ethnomusicologists such as A.Z. Idelsohn, Yoel Engel, S. An-Sky, and Y.L. Cahan.[4]

Beregovsky was the head of the Cabinet for Jewish Musical Folklore in the ethnographic section of the Institute of Jewish Proletarian Culture in Kiev.[3] He continued his research during the period of Stalinist repression of the 1930s under what must have been great ideological pressure,[1] as state-funded musical research in the Soviet Union necessarily followed Marxist-Leninist lines.[5]

The institute itself was later closed down and many of its members exiled and disgraced. In 1949, Beregovsky's department was closed and he was arrested in 1950 at the height of Joseph Stalin’s anti-Semitic campaign and sent to Tayshet, in the Irkutsk region, where he remained from 1951 to 1955. He was released and 'rehabilitated' in 1956. He returned to Kiev, where he lived the rest of his life.[3]

Beregovsky's archive of wax cylinders was thought by many to have been destroyed during World War II, but it was discovered in a library in Kiev during the 1990s.[2][5] Some of Beregovsky's collections were republished by American ethnomusicologist Mark Slobin, first in 1981 as Old Jewish Folk Music and in an expanded volume in 2001 as Jewish Instrumental Folk Music.[2] The latter has been issued in a second edition, 2015, extensively revised, including the restoration of an entire chapter of text which was missing in the 2001 edition. His collections of melodies have made their way into the repertoire of many current-day klezmer musicians such as Joel Rubin. Anna Shternshis of the University of Toronto worked with Beregovsky's archive and spearheaded the production of the 2018 album Yiddish Glory (91st Grammy-nominated).

Works (published)Edit

  • Jewish Musical Folklore (in Yiddish and Russian), USSR, 1934
  • Jewish folksongs (in Yiddish) (in collaboration with Itzik Feffer), Kiev, 1938
  • Jewish Instrumental Folk Music (in Russian) (edited by Max Goldin, translation and transliteration by Velvl Chernin), "Muzyka" Publishing, Moscow, 1987
  • Jewish wordless tunes (in Russian), "Kompozitor" Publishing, Russia, 1999
  • Jewish Instrumental Folk Music (edited by Mark Slobin, Robert Rothstein, Michael Alpert) Syracuse University Press, 2001
  • Purimshpils (in Russian ) (compiled by E. Beregovska), "Dukh i litera" Publishing, Kiev, 2001
  • Jewish Instrumental Folk Music, Second Edition (edited by Mark Slobin, Robert Rothstein, Michael Alpert, revised by Kurt Bjorling) musical services, Evanston IL USA, 2015



Other sourcesEdit


  1. ^ a b p.253 "A Fresh Look at Beregovski's Folk Music Research" by Mark Slobin. Ethnomusicology, Vol. 30, No. 2
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ a b c d
  4. ^ p.253-4 "A Fresh Look at Beregovsky's Folk Music Research" by Mark Slobin. Ethnomusicology, Vol. 30, No. 2
  5. ^ a b