will always be recognized." Mankind is willing to believe this adage.
But how many geniuses are lost, how many talents do not reach their full potential
and were not even forgotten, because they never came to fame? We do not know.
What we know is that a genius is not necessarily a being who is praised by
millions and whose creativity is well marketed by a multinational.
Barere was a genius. Since his untimely death, his name surfaces from time
to time in every decade with a few phonographic releases of historic performances,
and is subsequently forgotten. To the majority of music lovers of today
Barere's name is quite new, notwithstanding his geniality. Simon Barere put a
spell over his audience through his mastery of the keyboard, his insight in the
score, and the ability to convey this by displaying a great variety of tensions
and of gradations in dynamics, while keeping the image perfectly clear, as if
the recreation of the composer's work was almost non physical, an abstraction,
an entity on its own. This is especially true for his performances of works by
Franz Liszt, Piano Sonata in B minor and Funérailles, both
recorded in Carnegie Hall in 1947.
Carnegie Hall Liszt recital on R-199-85
Cover by Alex Steinweiss..
Simon Barere had suddenly collapsed while performing the first bars of Grieg's
A minor Piano Concerto in Carnegie Hall with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted
by Eugene Ormandy, on April 2, 1951, and died backstage, the world had
lost an extraordinary musician, interpreter and teacher, who was not always recognized
as such because of restrictions and unfortunate circumstances he had encountered
during his entire life. In his younger years he often had to keep his family alive
by playing in cinema's and restaurants instead of being celebrated in the concert
halls of the world's music capitals. And many times he had to flee a country because
of discrimination and restrictive regulations.
Barere was born in Odessa on September 1, 1896,
in a large family. (His actual name was Barer but when in England an 'e' was added
to avoid mispronunciation.) As a phenomenally gifted boy of 11 he was
admitted to the Odessa Imperial Music Academy. After his father had died
he supported his mother and his sisters. At sixteen, after his mother had died,
Simon went to St. Petersburg to study at the Conservatory directed from
1905 till 1912 (some sources mention 1917) by symphonist Alexander Glazunov.
There must have been a natural affinity between the creative, individualistic
and human Glazunov and the young, somewhat reserved, yet strong Barere.
Glazunov wholeheartedly protected the young talent against the anti-Semitic regulations
in the Russia of the Czars. And as Barere's nature seemed to focus on precise
detail in the first place, Glazunov's influence apparently was to let him also
see the greater concept, the synthesis.
St. Petersburg Barere studied for two years with pedagogue Anna Yesipova (Annette
Essipoff) (1851-1914) until her death. Anna Esipova was also the teacher of
other remarkable pianists like Leff Pouishnoff and Sergei Prokofiev.
After Esipova's death Barere studied with Felix Blumenfeld (1863-1931)
with whom he certainly could share the same taste. Blumenfeld certainly taught
him not only to keep his strength, precision and virtuosity, but also not to neglect
refined feeling and to show vulnerability in the performance. (Blumenfeld was
the teacher of such other remarkable performers as Wladimir Horowitz, Heinrich
Niehaus, and another strong - and greatly underestimated and ignored - personality,
Barere Picture restored by R.A.B., taken from the back of Remington R-199-85
graduation Barere returned to Kiev and started off as a professor himself at the
Kiev Conservatory. After Lenin's death in 1924 liberalism and liberties
made place for the restrictions of the regime of Joseph Stalin and this
made it even more difficult to build a career as a Jewish pianist and make a living
in the world of music. Despite the difficulties, Simon Barere was able to move
to Riga in 1928 to become a cultural ambassador for the Baltic countries. There
his wife, pianist Helen Vlashek, and his 7 year old son Boris,
finally joined him. From there they could escape to Berlin. Even there he could
not establish himself as a serious performer because of the growing fascist climate
in Germany and the takeover by the Nazis in 1933.
traveled to Great Britain to perform and fortune changed his life. In 1934 he
made his concert debut with Sir Thomas Beecham (as did
Edward Kilenyi in the same period) and he was
contracted by His Master's Voice to record solo pieces. These recordings were
released in the USA on the Victor label. The HMV recordings have been released
on CD on the APR label.
years later Barere came to the US and made his debut in Carnegie Hall on
November 9, 1936, and immediately was recognized as one of the authoritative pianists
of the period. He knew Rachmaninoff, Wladimir Horowitz and Leopold Godowsky. He
settled in the US for good in 1939.
After the Second World War Simon Barere gave several recitals in Carnegie Hall
in 1946, 1947 and 1948. The performances of 1947 were released by Don Gabor on
the Remington label (R-199-85). In March 1951 Barere also made recordings
in the studio for Remington. They were released on R-199-17 and R-199-35.
He and Donald H. Gabor had more sessions planned, but fate decided otherwise on
that fatal day in Carnegie Hall.
the fact that Barere was never offered a big contract - Victor released only four
shellac discs originating from England - therefor the Remingtons are a testimony
of his extraordinary art, thanks also to the efforts of his son Boris Barere.
There are recordings of solo pieces by Liszt, Chopin, Beethoven, Scriabin,
Bach, Blumenfeld. There is also a recording of Liszt's 1st Piano Concerto.
even exists a recording of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 18,
with Dutch born Antonia Brico conducting. The Barere-biography on the cover
of the APR LP originally stated that the date of recording and the names of orchestra
and conductor of the Rachmaninoff Concerto are unknown. However,
when in the late nineteen seventies Dutch Television aired the documentary film,
made in 1974 by folk singer Judy Collins (directed by Jill Godmilow) about
A Portrait of the Woman (1974), I noticed that a disc is shown of a recording
of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No.2 Op.18. Printed on the label, typed with
a typewriter, is the name of Simon Barere as soloist and as date of
recording 1942 is mentioned, the last season Antonia Brico conducted the Women's
Symphony Orchestra in New York before leaving for Denver.
the tape recorder had already been on display in Europe in 1935 during the World
Fair in Berlin, its existence and qualities only became known in the US in 1946
after Jack T. Mullin (when on assignment in Germany) had sent two machines home.
It was Ampex who started to copy the "Magnetophon" as the Germans called
the machine. It was going to be the new sound recording medium and it made the
Long Playing record possible. But Boris Barere recorded his father's live performances
in Carnegie Hall on 78 rpm acetates, as was the medium used at the time.
Making those recordings was not an easy task as not only the sound level had to
be set right but also the next disc which was to be engraved had to be started
at the right moment so no note was lost.
recording of the Liszt B minor Sonata was made on November 11, 1947. This
recording and the one of the Funerailles were released by Don Gabor on
Remington R-199-85 to commemorate the pianist on the occasion of the first
anniversary of his death in 1952. The LP has the usual Remington anomalies but
also shows that the performances were originally recorded on acetates and that
the transfers are extremely well done. They fully convey the atmosphere of the
live performance and still have the sound quality of a direct to disc recording
with an intense, dramatic and full piano tone. Irving Sablosky, critic
of the Chicago Daily News, commented in a review on Simon Barere's Carnegie Hall
recording of the Liszt Sonata. A quote was printed in the 1953 Remington Records
Catalog: "... fantastic, diabolical virtuosity seldom met and never before,
to my knowledge, captured thus on records."
On the back of the cover are extracts from reviews of several critics and some
quotations from Olin Downes' article in The New York Times of April 3, 1951,
the day after Barere had died.
Barere, Russian pianist, collapsed and fell to the floor last night in Carnegie
Hall as he was playing the Grieg Piano Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
(Eugene Ormandy, conducting).
Barere was 55 years old. He was born in Odessa in 1896. He went to St. Petersburg
Conservatory as a phenomenally gifted boy of 11 to study with the famous Annette
Essipof. Later he won the Rubinstein Prize and he commenced to tour Europe. He
made his first appearance in New York in Carnegie Hall on Nov. 9, 1936, and immediately
was recognized as one of the authoritive players of the period. He continued to
tour America and Europe, appearing with all the leading orchestras, including
the New York Philharmonic-Symphony, on many occasions.
was no more modest, studious and sincere artist. Others sought the limelight aggressively.
Mr. Barere was concerned with only one thing, the humble service of music. He
had a prodigious technique. It may be added that he was a prodigious musician,
which is not necessarily the same thing. His knowledge was such that many pianists
great and small, sought his counsel as coach and teacher. He leaves not only a
great but an enviable reputation behind him." - Olin Downes
1973 this performance was released on Turnabout THS 65001, the H indicating "historic".
On Varèse-Sarabande VC 81045, Tom Null released "The Legendary
Pianist Simon Barere" with some live recordings made in Carnegie Hall, the
program of Remington R-199-17, and he added two Scriabin Etudes, Preludes and
Polka by Rachmaninoff, Toccata and Traumeswirren by Schumann and Balakirev's Islamey.
The two Scriabin Etudes are Nos. 10 and 12 from Opus 8 and were released for the
first time on record. See The Remington Series.
Barere often emphasizes the virtuosity of the compositions, and it is obvious
that - apart from his concept of the inner value of a composition - speed is a
major ingredient of his interpretation and choosing for speed is sometimes a restriction
resulting in untidy playing. Among his outstanding renderings are also Chopin's
Scherzo No. 3 and Blumenfeld's Etude for the Left Hand.
VC 81045 (1978) - An original Don Gabor Production prepared
for release by Tom Null, Dub Taylor, and Chris Kuchler. Remastered by Bruce Leek.
Duplication engineer: John Arici.
contains pieces by Liszt (Faust Waltz, Liebestraum and Gnomenreigen) and Chopin
(Balade No. 1 and Scherzo No. 3). These recordings were made in 1950 and are of
a far higher sound quality as a tape recorder was used. They were probably made
in the Mastertone Recording Studios Inc. in New York City NY 10036, rented
by Don Gabor and George Curtiss on several occasions. Although
some of Barere's Carnegie Hall performances are most captivating, the studio gave
the pianist a setting for better concentration and the possibility of splicing.
The performance of the Faust Waltz is considered to be one of the finest
ever done of the piece, and is actually better than Barere's earlier Carnegie
Hall version. Later this recording was issued on Turnabout 65001 as well, the
tapes being supplied by American Tape Corporation as Gabor's company was named
Barere as pictured in a "MUSIC FOR MILLIONS" listing on the back of
an early Remington Record.
Picture edited and restored by R.A.B., taken from the back of Remington
is another memorial album with Don Juan Fantasy (Mozart-Liszt), Etude de concert
(Liszt), Sonetto del Petrarca (Liszt), Valse oublié (Liszt) and Campanella
(Paganini-Liszt). Also from tape recordings made in 1950 by Remington.
R-199-141 (issued in 1953) contains Balakirev's Islamey, Rachmaninoff's Preludes
Nos. 5, 12 and Polka, and Blumenfeld's Etude for the Left Hand, Schumann's Toccata,
Traumeswirren, and Liszt's Rhapsodie Espagnole. These are indicated as being live
recordings made in Carnegie Hall.
There is some
controversy about the recordings of Schumann's Toccata and Liszt's Rhapsodie Espagnole
(Spanish Rhapsody) featured on R-199-141. These takes could have been dubbings
from old HMV recordings and applaus could have been added as Bryan Crimp and Boris
Barere (Simon Barere's son) maintain. John Wilbraham though defends Don Gabor
in this matter. He writes:
"On your site you make mention of the APR re-issue
of a set of acetates of Barere playing the Rachmaninoff Concerto No 2, for your
information on the date of which we must thank you. I recently purchased this
CD and was interested to read in the notes provided by Bryan Crimp that 2 recordings
of Barere issued by Remington as live Carnegie Hall recitals are, in effect fakes,
produced by taping his earlier HMV studio recordings and adding taped applause
at the end.
Crimp goes on to say that according to Boris Barere, the pianists son, no
recording was ever made at Carnegie Hall of the two pieces in question (Schumann's
Toccata and Liszt's Rhapsodie Espagnole, Ed.), although his father did perform
them there. Such a fabrication is probably unprecedented, but Mr Crimp lays the
blame fairly and squarely when he says fake audience applause had been applied
by Remington for inclusion on an LP containing live Carnegie Hall recordings.
have relistened to the record in question [R-199-141, issue date 1953] and have
no doubt that these 2 tracks are indeed fabrications; it would be convenient therefore
to lay the blame at Remingtons door, as a commercial enterprise without
scruples about misleading their buyers or stealing another companys recordings;
unfortunately, I have a problem with this. One of the two tracks, that of the
Spanish Rhapsody of Liszt, had actually been previously issued by Boris Barere
himself on a private LP [CH 44] of his father Recorded During Recitals at
record was fairly widely circulated prior to Remingtons release, and having
listened to copies in my own collection I can confirm that although there is some
sound engineering in the Remington re-issue, the two are basically the same, with
identical protracted applause added at the end. Now since Mr. Barere has asserted
for APR that his father was never recorded in this work at Carnegie Hall, it follows
that he must have known that the recording he was issuing in response
to the requests of many of my fathers friends was in part
not genuine. There is no way of knowing what role Remington may have played in
the fabrication previous to this, if indeed they knew about it at all. Mr. Barere
gives Alexander Stock as the name of his sound engineer, and I have not seen any
association of him with the Remington label. - John Wilbraham, Great Britain.
is, however, indeed easy to distinguish the piano tone of a 78 RPM shellac from
a piano recorded on an acetate (engraved lacquer). The acetates give a more chiseled,
defined, and also a more dynamic sound quality with a wider frequency band. This
is certainly heard on the Remington of the Liszt Sonata on R-199-85, and on practically
all selections on the Varèse-Sarabande LP release prepared by Tom Null
in 1979. But Schumann's Toccata on that disc was clearly taken from the HMV 78
RPM disc. In this instance Don Gabor obviously followed Eli Oberstein's method
of releasing material from other companies without being detected. Rhapsody
Espagnole is not issued on the Varëse-Sarabande label. Also the B minor Sonata
was not issued by Tom Null. He probably was not looking for the acetate discs
or did not find the transfers to tape when searching the boxes of Remington recordings.
Varèse VC 81045 shows also which pieces were recorded in the studio.
contains Barere's interpretation of the Liszt Sonata which shows virtuosity,
but never for the sake of displaying a superior technique as in recordings of
other pianists. There is no sentimentality. His sense for phrasing, for dynamics,
for building up and releasing tension have a sincerity which leads the listener
to the heart of the music, to the core of what human existence is all about.
Right from the day Remington R-199-85 was released, Barere's performance
of Liszt's Sonata was recognized as the best interpretation that was available
of The New York Times wrote:
"...it has that combination of excitement and bravura that Barere invariably
brought to his Liszt (...). In time to come this disc will be a collector's item."
Strauss wrote: "More completely satisfying readings of the pieces
by Liszt presented are hardly imaginable. The "Funerailles" of that
master was not only a tour de force of living octaves, but thrilling in its dramatic
forcefulness and deeply affecting in its moments of sensitive lyricism."
DeMotte's evaluation from 1955 published in The Long Playing Record Guide
reads: "Barere plays with magnificent drive, poetic imagination, and
for a Sound Clip of the introduction from the Liszt Sonata taken from Remington
1989 Appian Publications and Recordings (APR) transferred the old acetates
to CD. As remastering techniques have vastly improved of late, again new transfers
have been prepared of Barere's performances. The 1947 Carnegie Hall recital with
the Liszt Sonata has been prepared by Bryan Crimp with annotation: "Simon
Barere, His celebrated live recordings at Carnegie Hall, Volume Three: 11th November
1947". The program also includes Renaissance - Pastorale, Gigue & Tambourin
(Godowsky), Ballade No. 1 and Impromptu No. 1 (Chopin), Etude for the left hand
(Blumenfeld), Islamey (Balakirev) and encores by Scriabin (Etude in D sharp minor,
Op. 8/12), Rachmaninoff (Polka de W.R.), Schumann (Traumes Wirren) and Weber (Perpetuum
mobile from Piano Sonata No. 1). Thanks to the efforts of APR, today everybody
can hear recordings of Simon Barere. But if you are a collector and encounter
a relative good pressing of a Remington release, you should not hesitate to take
a music lover one depends very much on the taste of the technician. Does he go
for an extremely clean transfer with a cold piano tone or does he want to convey
the atmosphere by not cleaning up the signal too drastically and preserving a
more natural sound with inevitably some distortion? The technician's choice makes
a great difference to the listener's perception, while conveying more or less
the nature of the performance. If you play records and do not mind hiss and surface
noise, I would suggest buying the Remington disc with Liszt's Sonata as well and
you will be transported back to 1947.
(c) Rudolf A. Bruil - March, 2001
This article - as all of my articles
Please do not reproduce this article in whole or part, in any form, without obtaining
my written permission.