"LISZT LIKE A BOMB"
"When I received an invitation to a recital last week, the press release enclosed with it introduced the artist as the world's best Liszt player. One gets suspicious about such big words, but on the other hand, one begins to wonder. So you go to the concert saying, "Let's see who this best Liszt player in the world is."
On the day of the recital I met with pianist Martin Berkofsky for lunch. He is of Russian origin and was born in Washington, D.C., in 1943. He is a bit shy and not talkative and at the beginning I really had a hard time getting him to say a few words. Later on I understood that it just takes him some time to warm up and begin talking. He has interesting opinions on music and life.
He began to play the piano when he was very young. His first piano teacher was a Polish piano virtuoso, Mieczyslaw Munz, a student himself of Busoni. Berkofsky said that he received a very good foundation in technique and musical understanding from his studies with Munz and Konrad Wolff, with whom he studied at the Peabody Conservatory. Konrad Wolff was a student of Arthur Schnabel. We can look at Berkofsky as a pianist who is continuing both Busoni and Schnabel's traditions. Through a Fulbright scholarship, he studied at the Vienna Academy. He says he was disappointed at the Academy and adds "In a very short time, I found out that I could not learn anything new from the piano teachers at the Academy. I was so unhappy that I let my piano studies go for some time, bought a motorcycle, and began killing time."
Berkofsky's interest in motorcycles actually lasted for many years afterwards until he had an accident that caused multiple injuries and broken bones.
During the time he was enjoying his motorcycle, he continued to produce artistic thoughts for himself and just by luck met with a very important teacher (Professor Hans Kann,) in Vienna and learned many of his piano playing secrets. After that he stepped up his piano studies.
After 1965 he won many awards. He lived in Paris for some time and then in Iceland. After Iceland, Berkofsky decided to settle down in Izmir, For the last year-and-a-half he has been teaching at the Izmir State Conservatory. So Berkofsky has been living among us but we were not aware that he was such an important musician.
The artist gave a recital sponsored by the Turkish-American University Association at the Ataturk Cultural Center. As a pianist, Berkofsky prefers freedom and his Beethoven was very original. After the intermission he performed just Liszt. He exploded like a bomb. He interpreted Liszt with a very special understanding, approach, and power. His performance turned a mere piano into an entire orchestra.
Like many of his colleagues, he is extremely sensitive about concentration. He wants silence during performance; recordings and photography are banned. But sometimes there are events that an artist cannot avoid. During his recital alarm watches went off, people coughed, and a cat wandered on stage. There is a saying, "The more sensitive you are, the more trouble you get.""
E-MAIL CRISTOFORI CONCERTS
9206 Rogues Road
Casanova, Virginia 20139-0288 USA