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The Art of the Violin – Berl Senofsky - Volume 3
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major Op 61 (1806) [44:17]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor Op. 63 (1935) [26:38]
Berl Senofsky (violin)
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Pierre Monteux; rec. live, Tanglewood, August 1958 (Beethoven)
American Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski, rec. live, Carnegie Hall, January 1966 (Prokofiev)
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD126 [70:57]
Experience Classicsonline


Let’s take a moment to salute Cembal d’Amour in its invaluable restoration work. Who else is going to devote time, patience and excellence to the legacy of American violinist Berl Senofsky? Take a look at the other two volumes in the series – volume 1, volume 2 – and also seek out Bridge’s broadcast of Senofsky’s Walton concerto with the composer conducting (see review) to get a broader perspective on this significant talent. You can also find some biographical details there as well, if his is just a name.
 
In volume three we have a brace of heavyweight concertos and accompanists.  In the Beethoven Senofsky was joined, at Tanglewood in August 1958, by Boston’s finest directed by Pierre Monteux. In the audience was Fritz Kreisler whose cadenzas Senofsky performed.  From Senofsky’s contribution to a Kreisler edition of The Strad in 1987 we can also learn that the two men went walking together in Stockbridge in the Berkshires; Kreisler’s favourite drink – and this may surprise you – was a chocolate soda.
 
Senofsky plays the Beethoven with a very sweet tone. His playing is lyric without becoming cloying, and his vibrato is characteristically fast. His playing was never motoric and one should not expect it here; in fact it’s relatively expansive. As he is very much under the microphone there are times when the orchestral lower strings and winds find their statements and counter-statements are over-subdued in the balance. There is rapturous applause after the first movement finishes though, for my tastes, earlier on he can take an elastic approach to tempo modifications. The slow movement is unusually sentimental tonally, though Senofsky’s trills are tightly electric and there’s plenty of lyric intensity in the playing. And the finale is quite relaxed, engaging if not ultimately necessary fully effective. It’s in any case a warmly characterised reading.
 
For the Prokofiev he was joined by the American Symphony Orchestra and Leopold Stokowski in a performance given at Carnegie Hall in January 1966. The acoustic here is a touch chilly but the work rather suits Senofsky’s tight, fast vibrato and his sense of nervous energy. In the higher positions, I think it’s fair to admit, he can sound tonally rather unrelieved but he brings a sure sense of architecture to bear. He takes an altogether more Oistrakh than Heifetz tempo. I like the slow movement’s central contrasts and the warmly expressive timbral qualities as well as the incisive tensile finale – in no small measure aided by Stokowski. I listened several times to the applause at the end but it sounds rather unnatural - as if at some point a big raucous applause track had been edited over the beginnings of respectful clapping. 
 
Senofsky admirers have more to detain them here. Their hero is in the highest company in these two works; he plays with enviable assurance throughout and if, in the final resort, one can detect why he never quite made it to the upper echelons one can still admire the very real gifts he possessed, ones that are being so valuably explored in this ever-engrossing series of discs.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 


 


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