The first in Cembal d’Amour’s series devoted to Berl
Senofsky is rather poorly documented as to source material. All are
live performances and the performances with Simon Barere’s son, Boris,
may well derive from the same 1949 Carnegie Hall recital that gave us
the Debussy Sonata and Stravinsky Suite Italienne, which are contained
in the second volume of the series. The Shostakovich comes from a 1992
Peabody recital. The others are of obscure derivation though one of
them, the Gluck alas, is exceptionally murky.
I’ve covered Senofsky’s career in some detail before
but the Persinger and Galamian trained Queen Elizabeth prize winner
certainly had all the makings of a big career. He had a strong technique,
a vibrant tone, a strongly romanticised profile and a catholic repertoire.
Born in Philadelphia in 1926 he served in orchestral positions, as a
pedagogue and was a much-respected presence at Peabody. His list of
commercial recordings is simply, as with so many others of his generation,
not commensurate with his talent. Hence Cembal d’Amour is very useful
filling some historical gaps with their releases though again I would
put in a strong plea for a much more systematic level of printed source
details – locations, dates, preferably in tabulated form.
We have an Old School recital programme here – with
the exception of the Shostakovich – and all the better for it. In the
Paradis we can admire his smooth diminuendi and some lightly applied
bowing, an attractive opening to the disc. The following Vivaldi receives
a characteristically big boned reading with Boris Barere more than merely
supportive – he’s a strong and important presence even in a work which
is so soloist oriented as this. There’s a big acoustic here and it suits
the vibrantly projected romanticism of Senofsky. The Schubert Sonata
is full of classicism but also a fine zest; I felt it once or twice
over-scaled in the opening Allegro. The slow movement is affectionate
without sententiousness and the finale songfully propulsive; this is
not quite in the Grumiaux league of Schubert playing but it’s a strongly
romanticised, honey-toned alternative. The Shostakovich transcription
of Four Preludes from Op 34 (carried out by Tsiganov) is in less good
sound; rather distant but still acceptable. They are all despatched
with technical aplomb and panache; no hanging about either from Senofsky,
though if one could voice criticism it would centre around the D Flat
Major Prelude where Senofsky is arguably too forceful and not soft enough.
His tone is too big and masculine with very occasional unsteadiness
and despite his succulent legato it’s rather undifferentiated playing.
The remainder of the disc is pretty much encore fodder.
He plays de Falla’s Danse Espagnole with unusual delicacy – he’s no
powerhouse strutter and knows when to withdraw tone – before digging
into the string and turning up the heat (something’s gone wrong with
the tape at 1.56 though). His vibrato shows its inclination to extremes
of rapidity in Tchaikovsky’s Melody – nicely lyric phrasing though –
and he is appropriately dashing in Wieniawski’s Caprice. The Gluck regrettably
is in impoverished sound with a desiccated orchestral backing; was it
the sound track for a film, or was this an orchestrally accompanied
encore? He’s not motorically insane in Wieniawski’s Polonaise Brillante,
which is better for the musicality of the piece; he displays his technique
but doesn’t flaunt it.
Cembal d’Amour have embarked on some worthwhile projects
and for as long as they continue to mine archives and private recordings
for such as Senofsky, Heifetz, Szeryng and the like, collectors will
await their releases with the highest possible interest.
see Volume 2