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Berl Senofsky. The Art of the Violin Volume 1 – Concert Favourites
Maria Theresia von PARADIS (1759-1824)

Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)

Sonata in D Major
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Sonata in D Major D384
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)

Four Preludes for piano Op 34 transc violin and piano Tsiganov
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Nocturne in C Sharp minor arr Milstein
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)

Danse Espagnole from La Vida Breve arr Kreisler
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Berceuse Op 16
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)

Guittare Op 45 No 2 arr Sarasate
Nicolo PAGANINI (1782-1840)

Caprices Op 1 Nos 7 and 17
Pyotr TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Melody Op 42 No 3
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)

Caprice in A Minor arr Kreisler
Polonaise Brillante op 4
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)

Melodie from Orfeo ed Euridice
Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)

Alt Wien arr Heifetz
Berl Senofsky, violin with
Boris Barere, piano
Julian Martin, piano
Won Me Cho, piano
Live recordings
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD106 [65.52]




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.

Jonathan Woolf

see Volume 2


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