SIMON BARERE -- Complete HMV Recordings 1934-1936
Here is a superb collection of all of Simon Barere's HMV recordings made during the period 1934-1936 after his sensational British debut in 1934. His short career was plagued with setbacks, his death April 2, 1951 during a performance of Grieg's Concerto with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra in Carnegie Hall, vividly described by Olin Downes of the New York Times:
"Mr. Barere seemed to be in top form. His entrance solo was brilliantly delivered. But presently this writer was puzzled by the pace of his performance, which seemed excessively fast. Then comes the passage after the violoncellos have announced the second theme, of developments discoursed between the piano and the orchestra. A moment later it seemed as if Mr. Barere were bending over to one side, listening with special attention to the instruments as he matched his tone with theirs. In another moment his left hand fell from the keyboard and in another second he fell senseless from the stool to the floor. The orchestra stopped in consternation, someone shouted from the stage for a doctor, and with some difficulty the unconscious man was carried from the stage."
Barere had succumbed to a "spontaneous cerebral hemorrhage" and the musical world lost one of the true giants of the keyboard. His career had just begun to achieve international fame; his annual Carnegie Hall concerts were legendary. Fortunately some of his concert performances in that venue were recorded and can be heard in two other APR twin-CD sets (CDAPR 7007/7008).
This fascinating set contains all of his HMV recordings made during ten sessions over the period 1934/1936, along with comprehensive notes about Barere's retakes and the fact that when first published he was identified as "Simon Barer" and he requested an extra "e" be added to his name so that it would be pronounced "Bah-rare" There are gems in this collection, notably perhaps the most cleanly articulated recording ever made of Liszt's La Leggierezza, an astounding reading of Balakirev's Islamey, and the premiere recording of Etude for the Left Hand by his teacher, Felix Blumenfeld, a phenomenal display of single-hand virtuosity. Many years ago, Leon Fleisher, when a guest on my public radio program fundraiser, told the story of how he was on a BBC panel where he was asked to identify how many hands were playing during a piano performance. Barere's Blumenfeld recording was they played. Fleisher said it obviously was a trick question - it couldn't be two hands or why would they ask? Perhaps it was three, but surely not one. Then panelists were advised that it was, indeed, just one hand, and the left hand at that. Years later, Fleisher would make his own recording of the Blumenfeld Etude, a fine performance indeed, but not as spectacular as Barere's -- none could be. It is said that HMV had spectators in the studio when Barer made his recording October 15, 1935 to verify that only one hand was used, but then Barere's live Carnegie Hall performance of November 11, 1947 (to be found in APR 7008) also proves but five digits were used.
This is a set essential for any piano collection --and the transfers from original 78's are masterful. Complete documentation is provided of all of the HMV recordings giving matrix numbers, recording dates and complete information about which sides were issued.
R.E.B. (Jan. 2001)