Recital Media Review Print



Sonatas by Brahms and Prokofiev

September 17, 2002 - Hillsborough, NC:


Sonatas by Brahms and Prokofiev. Berl Senofsky, violin, and Gary Graffman, piano. Recorded in concert at the Library of Congress on March 14, 1975. Bridge 9118 (57:09; ADD; $16.95). Available directly from Bridge Records (at http://www.bridgerecords.com/ ) for $14.99, postage paid, or in local CD stores such as Millennium.

Musicians performing at the peak of their powers are captured in this fine recording of a concert at the Library of Congress. The sound is warm and detailed stereo with a wide dynamic range. It was recorded at a somewhat higher level than average so a volume cut might be appropriate. Both musicians had played chamber music together since they first met at the Marlboro Music School in Vermont in 1952.

Pianist Gary Graffman is the better known of the two, having made a number of highly regarded commercial recordings and having given concerts in the Triangle area. Alas the few recordings made by violinist Berl Senofsky have long been out of print. Philadelphia-born Senofsky's training was grounded in the grand romantic tradition. At age 6 he studied with Louis Persinger and at age 13 he began studying with Ivan Galamian at the Juilliard School. After service in WWII, he resumed his career and won the 1946 Naumburg Prize. According to Donald Rosenberg's The Cleveland Orchestra Story , Senofsky served as Assistant Concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell from 1951-55; the otherwise excellent notes seem to err in stating 195 0 -55. In 1955 he became the first and only American to date to win the gold medal of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium. For some reason his solo career failed to fulfill its promise. He taught at the Peabody Conservatory from 1965-96. The sad news of his passing arrived shortly after receiving this CD to review.

The superb musicianship and ensemble heard on this disc will make me return to it often. Unlike some other "virtuoso" teams, this was very much a meeting of equals. The selections are Brahms' Sonata in A, Op. 100, Prokofiev's Sonata No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 80, and, as a sort of encore, Brahms' Sonatensatz. The extraordinary palette of violin colors deployed by Senofsky is amazing. The Brahms is richly expressed, with subtle nuances. Graffman is famous for his Prokofiev and they both bring out the full acerbic flavor of the Russian. The variety and nuance of sound that Senofsky coaxed from his muted violin in the haunting third movement is astonishing. The audience for this live concert, in those halcyon days before the cell phone plagues, was very quiet. Senofsky announced the encore from the stage.