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Berl Senofsky. The Art of the Violin Volume 2. French and Russian Masterworks.
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Violin Sonata No 1 in A Major Op 13 (1875-76)
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Violin Sonata in G Minor (1916-17)
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)

Violin Sonata No 2 in D Major Op 94a – arr Prokofiev from Flute Sonata
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)

Suite Italienne (c1933) – arr Stravinsky and Dushkin from Pulcinella
Berl Senofsky, violin
Boris Barere, piano on all except
Vanden Eynden, piano (Fauré)
Recorded 1949-58
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD 110 [75.52]


This is the second volume in Cembal d’Amour’s Senofsky series. All except the Fauré were recorded live. The earliest – the Debussy and Stravinsky – come from a recital at Carnegie Hall in 1949, the Prokofiev dates from a recital at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1958; the Fauré with pianist Vanden Eynden coming from a Belgian recording in 1955, presumably at the sessions for the Phonic label that produced the Brahms Op 100 and Strauss Op 18 sonatas.

Senofsky was born in Philadelphia in 1926 and died recently. He studied with Louis Persinger, one of the first American born teachers to further the cause of native-born fiddle players, and afterwards with Ivan Galamian. He became the first and so far only American violinist to win the Queen Elizabeth Violin Competition, which he did in 1955 and we must be grateful to Cembal d’Amour for their promotion of his legacy because Senofsky’s commercial discography was tiny; it would certainly be a boon to hear him in the Walton Concerto which he and the composer toured through Australasia should any broadcasts have been made and retained.

Here we can hear Senofsky and pianists Boris Barere (son of Simon) and Vanden Eynden in a Franco-Russian programme that takes him from young manhood – he was twenty-three when he gave the Carnegie Hall recital enshrined here - to his early thirties. What emerges once again from these readings is how rich and individualistic a crop of violinists America possessed in the early fifties and how Senofsky was one of the most prominent of their number and certainly one of the most distinguished of the opulent tonalists amongst them. It’s an enormous pity that because of Isaac Stern’s hegemony more of them didn’t receive their due as concerto soloists and recitalists but we can at least take pleasure in discs such as these that celebrate their musicianship and promote their legacy.

The Fauré is a youthful performance but certainly not rushed in the opening movement. In the slow movement he manages some soft pliable phrasing whilst retaining vibrancy at all times – no on/off vibrato usage afflicts him – if sometimes the intensity of his tone can become somewhat overpowering. The Debussy from Carnegie Hall sounds in rather poorer sound than its companion, the Stravinsky Suite Italienne. Senofsky sounds intensely engaged as well he might be, a twenty-three year old relative unknown on stage at Carnegie Hall but the sound in the Debussy tends to exacerbate a shrillness in his playing which can and does mutate into aggression. This is again a youthfully energised performance that retains some dervish attacks and heavily vigorous accenting in the Intermède. Once more there is some truly luscious and emotive phrasing in the Finale, with considerable exotic depth of tone, but it does sound rather too emphatic and in the final analysis the playing emerges as rather too externalized.

The Prokofiev receives a splendid performance. He varies his tonal and expressive resources to excellent effect, stressing notes in the Moderato opening to advantage. In the Scherzo second movement he is vigorous and strong but he shines most in the Andante where despite some wow on the tape his intense vibrato coils around the music, and he unleashes some effulgent playing lavished with sovereign depth. The finale is strongly projected, quick and athletic and lissome, Barere proving an excellent foil with his rhythmic alertness and technical address. The disc ends with the Stravinsky. There he’s on better ground in this 1949 performance than in the case of the Debussy and he plays with simplicity, affection and taut understanding not to mention sophisticated tonal resources.

This disc charts the progress of an estimable talent. Let’s hope Cembal d’Amour can keep us busy with many more such in the years to come.

Jonathan Woolf

see Volume 1


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