Thursday, March 08, 2007

More about Berl Senofsky

Werner Stroobants put these segments from The Winners on Youtube. Here Berl talks about meeting Rachmaninoff,

and here he talks about the business of music and listens for the very first time to a recording he made when he was a teenager.

Noel Lester sent me what he wrote about Berl Senofsky for the liner notes of a forthcoming recording:

Berl Senofsky—An Appreciation

When I first arrived at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in 1969 as a very green piano major, I could never have imagined how profoundly Berl Senofsky would influence my life and career. I never expected that a violinist would become my touchstone for musical excellence, even though my high school piano teacher had already spoken of him in reverential tones.

During my first couple of years at Peabody, I was around Mr. Senofsky a good bit and heard him play a number of times, but my first musical interaction came later, when my future wife, RoseAnn Markow, who was studying with Berl at the time, and I were put in a chamber music group together. I learned very quickly that one needed to come to the sessions very well prepared and to be ready to have every musical notion tossed aside, reexamined, and, if lucky, put back together again. But I also glimpsed a vision of what intense and profound music-making could be and I was and continue to be hungry for that kind of experience.

Berl Senofsky was a musician and a man of uncompromising standards. Though he was warm and had a quick wit, he did not suffer fools gladly (especially musical fools) and in his playing and teaching, he strove to reveal the meaning and truth of everything he and his students played. His studio was a mecca for the most gifted students at Peabody—not only violinists, but also pianists, cellists, violists, clarinetists, and anyone else who wanted to become a musician.

The sheer physical presence of Berl Senofsky could be intimidating; he had the build of a football player and a searing, steely gaze that could stop even the boldest person in his tracks. But when he picked up his violin to play, one was immediately transported to another realm--one which only he seemed to inhabit. Whether it was one of his many recitals at Peabody, a concerto performance, or a chamber music concert with colleagues such as cellists Lawrence Lesser or Stephen Kates, pianist Ellen Mack, or violist Karen Tuttle, Senofsky showed us a rare and beautiful vision of music as revealed by only the most gifted of interpreters. His audiences were transported, if only for a few breathtaking minutes, to Mt. Olympus itself.

These concerto performances reveal Senofsky’s playing at its very best. Brilliant, both technically and interpretatively, he is aided and abetted by two of the great conductors and orchestras of the 20th century. Listening to these concertos reveals why those of us who knew him and his playing well have been spoiled forever after and continue to measure other performances by his standard. Quite simply put, the time-stopping magic of a great Senofsky performance is a gift rarely received in this life.

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