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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bernard Parronchi the cellist from my childhood

After my Grandmother passed away several years ago, while sifting through her small items, my Father found a cassette tape.  The tape was simply marked Elsie Sears - B. Parronchi.  As I am the family music antiquarian, Dad passed the tape to me.  The most recent upgrade of my sound system did not include a tape deck, so I dropped it by to my friend Seth Winner, one of the leading historical sound engineers in the country hoping it was worthwhile and could be dubbed to a cd.  Now I remember Mr. Parronchi, or Benny as he preferred to be called from my childhood.  He was in fact a dear friend of my Grandmother and I remember him playing Bruch's "Kol Nidre" at Yom Kippur services.  When the tape came back, it was not what I expected, which was a simple recording of the Kol Nidre.  Instead it was a recording of a professional recording session with the pianist Elsie Sears, also a friend of my Grandmother and an unnamed female announcer.  They performed 8 pieces with commentary, the program an ode to Jewish composers.  The tape also was complete with the engineer's comments, multiple takes and so forth.  As the tape had become brittle over the years, it was truly a miracle that Seth was able to create a listenable product.  I have been unable to locate any evidence the project was ever issued commercially, perhaps it was for a radio broadcast.

A little on Benny.  He was born in New York in 1895, he claimed to have studied with Pablo Casals, though I have not been able to verify his statement.  He started with the National Symphony Orchestra as principal cellist from 1918-1930.  He went on to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, where he also taught locally, including well known cellist Dorothy Lenhart Fidlar.  From 1945 to 1965 he played with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and also was a member of the Neo-Russian String Quartet with Gingold, Altschuler and Rosenker.  Benny also had a touring career and played concerts throughout the Country.  He eventually retired to Florida, where he refused to be idol and kept his hand in as principal cellist with the Daytona Symphony Orchestra.  The cellist passed away in 1982.

Elsie Sears I know less about other than the fact that she was New England Conservatory trained and was married to a prominent Boston physician.

The sound file attached is a YouTube video of Paronnchi and Sears playing the Caporale "Sonata in D minor" and the Granados "Danza Espanola #5, Andaluza".  Never released to the public before, I hope you enjoy their music making!

Photograph of Bernard Parronchi courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives

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