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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Simon Barere. His celebrated live recordings at Carnegie Hall. Volume Four: 1949
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise brillante in E flat Op. 22
Scherzo No. 3 in C sharp minor Op 39
Waltz No. 5 in A flat op 42
Etudes Op. 10 Nos. 4, 5 and 8
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Etude de Concert Gnomenreigen S145/2
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Sonata No. 27 in E minor Op. 90
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Carnaval Op. 9
Simon Barere (piano)
Recorded live in concert at Carnegie Hall 1949
APR 5624 [71.40]

AVAILABILITY

www.aprrecordings.co.uk

Volume Four of APR’s Barere series takes us to two live Carnegie Hall recitals in February 1949. Bryan Crimp in his notes speculates that the Beethoven Op 90 might in fact derive from a recital Barere gave in November 1947 – there seems some doubt regarding documentation though the discs themselves are labelled February 1949. As ever the recordings derive from the collection of the pianist’s son Boris, himself a musician of note. Boris Barere managed to record his father’s recitals from the vantage of a studio above the stage of Carnegie Hall. In his last recording, recently issued on the Cembal d’Amour label and reviewed here, Simon Barere’s admixture of virtuosity and poetry was held in admirable balance. Stunning feats of bravura, for which he was of course renowned, co-existed with moments of exceptionally acute poetic illumination. In recital though Barere could push things to extremes and there are moments here in these live readings in which stupendous digital feats are juxtaposed with more troubling features.

Chopin’s Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise brillante is certainly fluent, to say the least, the Polonaise vivid, outsize-dramatic, with brilliant passagework and some incendiary pianism – but the conclusion is rather gabbled. His Beethoven sonata – of 1947 or 49 or whenever – is rather attractive; it has a heartfelt nobility with a slow movement of really splendid line, the bass pointing of exquisite depth. The central panel of the disc is Carnaval, a reading of ups and downs. The Préambule begins poorly, perhaps somewhat nervously, with a succession of wrong notes and a decidedly unstable and uncomfortable tempo. Pierrot is insistent, Arlequin stormy, Florestan full of dramatic contrast and fierceness, Sphinxes incandescently saturnine, Papillons hammered out viciously – see Myra Hess for the opposite approach – Chopin quite beautiful (poetic, softened dynamics, acutely understanding), Valse allemande full of attractive rhythm but very pronounced and acerbically violent, Paganini shot through with leonine grandeur and the Davidsbündler thunderous and overdriven. Most exciting to hear if not necessarily to live with. The Chopin group is intriguing if inconsistent. His C sharp minor Waltz is powerfully arresting but the A flat Waltz is, well, just fingers (as Horowitz dismissively said of Levitzki). The C sharp minor Etude is abrupt and almost uncontrolled, dropping notes worryingly and we get an encore of the G flat major Etude to delighted applause, albeit the New York audience does suffer the effects of a plainly arctic winter; as well as the private nature of the recordings you will have to submit to some coughs and splutters.

My views on Barere are plainly mixed and live Barere only serves to magnify them. The latest volume of the series has typically splendid documentation and has extracted optimum sound quality from these live performances. There’s no doubt that Barere was a stunning pianist – I just wish sometimes he had been as consistently stunning a musician.

Jonathan Woolf



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