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Berl Senofsky, 77; Violin Virtuoso Taught at Peabody Conservatory, Toured Widely

June 29, 2002|From the Baltimore Sun

Berl Senofsky, a Peabody Conservatory violin virtuoso whose students play in principal positions for major symphony orchestras, has died. He was 77.

Senofsky died June 21 in Baltimore of complications from lung and heart disease.

A musical prodigy who took his first lesson at age 3, he won an important musical award, the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition of Belgium, in 1955. He was a member of the Peabody faculty from 1965 to 1996.

"He was one of America's greatest violinists," said Stephen Kates, a cellist and friend. "He had a natural talent and was a top musician, pedagogue and mentor."

Jephta Drachman, a friend, said: "He taught things you can't learn straight out in schools. He taught the real art of playing, to play with a meaning that penetrates deep into the heart.

"He was generous because he cared so much about his students," added Drachman, president of the board of directors for Johns Hopkins University's Shriver Hall Concert Series. "My father, [Russian-born cellist] Gregor Piatigorsky, admired his talents tremendously."

Born in Philadelphia, Senofsky was the son of a Russian emigre who had studied with violinists Mischa Elman and Efrem Zimbalist.

Senofsky studied at the Juilliard School of Music in New York and was a pupil of master teacher Ivan Galamian.

Senofsky received the first prize in the Walter W. Naumberg competition in 1946 and was assistant concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra from 1951 to 1955, playing under maestro George Szell.

After winning the prestigious Belgian competition, the violinist toured and performed widely in what was then the Soviet Union.

He also played in Europe, Australia, Asia, Africa and the United States.

Senofsky founded the First Tuesday Concert Society in Baltimore; its name later was changed to Opus One.

"His style of performance was straight from the gut, big-bodied and passionate. He produced a ravishing sound on the violin," said David Starobin, a Peabody alumnus and owner of Bridge Records. Starobin's company released a CD of a live performance Senofsky gave in 1975 at the Library of Congress.

"To me," Senofsky said in a 1979 interview, "music is a higher calling than just a profession or living. It is an effort in understanding something bigger than yourself--it is an effort at striving to be something bigger than you are. You can define religion that way too."

His wife, Kyung Moon Ahn, died in 2000. He had two earlier marriages, one to pianist Ellen Mack and the other to cellist Shirley Trepel. Both ended in divorce.

Senofsky is survived by a son, Dr. Gregory M. Senofsky of Los Angeles; a sister, Beatrice Enson of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and a grandson.

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