Berl Senofsky in Concert at EXPO ’58 Brussels
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Pièce en forme de Habanera (1907-08) [3:14]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Romanian Dances Sz.56 (1915) arr. Székely [5:59]
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Vocalise, Op.34 No.14 (1912) [6:29]
Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)
Sonata No. 6 in E Major for solo violin, Op.27 No.6 (1923) [7:02]
Paul CRESTON (1906-1985)
Suite for Violin and Piano, Op. 18 (c.1939) [9:16]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Polonaise No. 1 in D, Op. 4 (1853) [4:57]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Violin Partita No. 2 in D minor BWV 1004: Chaconne (1720) [15:25]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 100: Allegretto grazioso (1886) [5:19]
Hungarian Dances (1852-69): No. 7 in A [2:02]
Berl Senofsky (violin)
Marie Louise Bastyns (piano)
rec. 6 October 1958, American Theatre, World’s Fair, Brussels
BRIDGE 9470 [59:51]

It’s always been a pleasure to encounter discs by Berl Senofsky – see, for example this review where some links to other reviewed recordings can be found.

This one comes as a surprise. It preserves a 1958 Brussels recital given at that year’s EXPO, where Senofsky was accompanied by the excellent Marie Louise Bastyns, still happily with us and living in the same city. It preserves some background hum and audience applause after every number, which I tend to find somewhat irksome but does, at least, enshrine the element of live frisson. And frisson was in the air that evening, as Senofsky plays with great élan and finesse.

There’s expressive pathos in Pièce en forme de Habanera. Its veiled warmth beautifully calibrated, it’s received with bravos from the audience whose applause is gently dampened by Bridge. Bartók’s Romanian Dances are played with tangy zest, not least the faster movements. Sometimes – just sometimes – his characteristically fast vibrato moves at such a rapid pace that it limits optimum potential for colour but Senofsky plays tenderly when required. He doesn’t quite employ a bow long enough to end the piece – but it hardly matters so fluent is the characterisation. Rachmaninov’s Vocalise is full of allure but a bigger proposition follows in the form of the Sonata No.6 by the great Belgian hero, Ysaÿe. He plays the opening fanfare figures beautifully and brings out the underlying habanera – not surprising, as the sonata was dedicated to that marvelous tonalist Manuel Quiroga - with supple rhythmic impetus. He’s right up to tempo – unless you prefer the manic tempo of Ruggiero Ricci. Paul Creston’s Suite is numbered Op.19 in the booklet – but I wonder if it shouldn’t be Op.18 instead? Anyway, he plays the songful beauty of the central Air with great perception, and the rolling impetus of the concluding Rondo similarly. Bastyns sticks with him all the way.

Wieniawski’s Polonaise, Op.4 – strangely misnamed in the booklet as the Grand Duo Polonaise, Op.8 – is boldly, indeed dashingly done and it prefaces a stirring rendition of Bach’s Chaconne. Only the slightly overdone diminuendos and occasionally clotted phrasing diminish full appreciation. The recital ends with Brahms: a ripely romantic performance of the final movement of the Op.100 sonata that makes one wish to hear the whole work, and the Hungarian Dance No.7.

Jonathan Woolf

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