ARLINGTON, Mass. — The Armenian Cultural Foundation announces the release of a musical CD. Entitled “always Hope” and recorded by pianist Martin Berkofsky (1943-2013), it includes works by Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert and Liszt.
This CD is the realization of the late Berkofsky’s dream to help cancer patients, a wish expressed in mid-October 2013, when Berkofsky himself was battling advanced cancer. Proceeds from this album is being donated to cancer patients in hospitals throughout Massachusetts and other states in the nation and Europe. This recording, said Berkofsky “celebrates hope, universal hope. Hope which is that inextinguishable human spirit which see light without thought of darkness, success without hint of failure, healing as the summit which without question we shall scale.”
Of Belarusian ancestry, Berkofsky, born in Washington, DC, on April 8, 1943, was a child prodigy. He studied piano under Polish virtuoso Mieczyslaw Munz as well as Konrad Wolff, Walter Hautzig and Hans Kann in Vienna. The New York Times hailed Berkofsky’s 1965 debut “the most assertive and compelling of all this reviewer had heard this season.” His illustrious tenure, spanning 31 countries and on more than 150 radio and television broadcasts, includes, recordings with Anton Dorati and the London Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Symphony Orchestra; competitions awards, Fulbright grants, multiple international tours for the American State Department, summer at the Marlboro Music Festival, and many others.
His life-long mentorship with Armenian-American composer Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000) played a major role in his artistic legacy. Hovhaness entrusted Berkofsky with important premiers of his opuses. Hovhaness also produced and encouraged many new Berkofsky recordings, for example, with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Moscow Globalis Symphony Orchestra and Long Island Chamber Ensemble.
In 1982, while on a concert tour in Reykjavik, Iceland, he suffered serious injuries in a motorcycle accident; his left arm was broken in eight places. Despite his doctors’ prognosis that he would perhaps never play again, Berkofsky with sheer determination and resilience, recovered. Viewing his recovery as a second chance at life, he resolved that his “calling would be to give concerts only for free and to raise funds to benefit charitable activities. The list of events he dedicated to humanitarian causes is daunting and not well documented. To name a few to raise funds for the families of the victims of the Beslan school massacre in Russia: for the construction of a an art center in West Virginia; a concert to raise funds for a public school teacher’s heart transplant; for the family of a young Pakistani girl who needed expensive leukemia treatments; for the organization Assistance in Health Care, which helps cancer patients; and for Kitzeh and Orion, two orphaned children’s communities in Russia.
On May 17, 2009 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alan Hovhaness (March 8, 1911), Berkofsky in conjunction with the Alan Hovhaness Commemorative Committee, the Alan Hovhaness International Research Centre and the Cristofori Foundation under the auspices of Armenian Cultural Foundation, he played a major role in the dedication ceremonies of the Alan Hovhaness memorial in Arlington, Mass. Granted the honor of making the public unveiling speech in Arlington Center of the Alan Hovhaness plaque on the ground of the Jefferson Cutter House, Berkofsky, more importantly, was instrumental in the creation of the Alan Hovhaness Collection in the Armenian Cultural Foundation. Singlehandedly, he searched, visited various academic centers in the United States, collected recordings, documents, correspondences and papers on Hovhaness’ illustrious legacy. This collection, one of the three major in the world, archived and catalogued by the ACF, is available for the researchers worldwide.
A year later, in 2010, learning of “Donatori di Musica” an Italian network of musicians, doctors and volunteers who organize concerts for hospitalized cancer patients, Berkofsky flew to Italy and gave concerts in hospitals in Carrara and Bolzano, while battling his own advanced cancer. On November 1, 2013, gravely ill, he flew to Italy and gave one final concert in the oncology ward of Brescia Hospital to bring his message of hope and light to all who suffer from the disease.
Berkofsky believed in the healing power of music. He said: “Music heals. It brings peace to the spirit, joy to the heart, comfort to the physical body, it unites mankind in brotherhood to strive for generous, unselfish, and high ideals to dedicate ourselves and our work to that which ennobles the human spirit, seeks to overcome and to resolve even the most difficult Illness and strife, and holds high the ideals of a higher plane to which we pledge ourselves.”
Berkofsky’s CD is the second such project by ACF: the first was that of Reuben Gregorian issued on the occasion of his 90th birth anniversary (1999). “always HOPE”, initiated by the Armenian Cultural Foundation, has been made possible with the kindness and generosity of a number of classical music enthusiasts, Jack and Marcia Johnston, Paul Vinger, Pasquale Tassone, Amaras Art Alliance, and Friends of Armenian Culture Society (FACS) as well as recording specialists, graphic and art designer who donated their skills and time toward the realization of this project.
For more information, contact ACF during office hours by calling (781)-646-3090.