No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63 – Berl Senofsky, violin/Boston Symphony Orchestra/ Pierre Monteux (Beethoven)/American Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski (Prokofiev)
Cembal d’amour Historic Series CD 126, 70:57 (Distrib. Qualiton) *****:
Cembal d’amour brings out the third of its recorded celebrations of the art of American violinist Berl Senofsky (1926-2002), the only American-born violinist to have won Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition in Belgium. His teaching at the Peabody Conservatory of Music 1965-1996 possesses all the force of legend. I have lamented prior that aside from Cembal d’amour, no label (including RCA and Philips) has resurrected the few commercial records Senofsky made, especially his gripping Brahms Concerto with Rudolf Moralt, done for an Epic LP.
Here, Senofsky collaborates with two titans of the orchestral palette, and I will start with the Prokofiev (10 January 1966) from Carnegie Hall under Leopold Stokowski. Long a sponsor of Prokofiev’s music, Stokowski (1882-1977) made no inscriptions of Prokofiev’s concertos, although documents exist of the G Minor Piano Concerto and the Cello Concertino. Sporting a hugely gracious tone–albeit in somewhat distant sonics–Senofsky exults in this lyrical and metrically demonic work, effecting a long line that rivals the esteemed Heifetz/Koussevitzky interpretation that set the standard for everyone else. The tenderness Senofsky instills in the slow movement complements the demonic virtuosity marking his grasp of this work, which he swallows whole. The last movement, which likes to exploit Iberian impulses in its rather exotic division of the bar line into unorthodox modes of four, has Senofsky rasping and singing alternately in rapturous swoops, even when his instrument wants to sound like a demented banshee. The last page elicits howls of praise from a mesmerized audience.
It is a rare delight to hear veteran conductor Pierre Monteux (1875-1964) in the Beethoven Concerto from Tanglewood (9 August 1958), a collaboration to complement his fine inscription for RCA of the Brahms Concerto with the Boston Symphony and soloist Henryk Szeryng. Monteux establishes a broad canvas for the opening exposition, and Senofsky enters with half steps and soft diminuendi in the manner and drive of Nathan Milstein. The two proceed to the mingled measures–in bright sound–alternately stately and lyrically exalted, with an undeviating sense of architecture. Senofsky affectionately and passionately realizes the cadenzas by Fritz Kreisler, who was himself an honored attendee at the concert. Senofsky luscious tone and fluent style carry the first movement by leaps and bounds, the pedal points from the orchestra breaking out, tutti, into energetic waves of exquisitely balanced sound. Applause erupts after the first movement, only a taste of the cataclysm that follows a timeless Larghetto and volcanic Rondo, whose each repetition of the jovial, bouncy tune gains both momentum and esprit. An important document of a major violin talent – among the Best of the Year.
— Gary Lemco