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Simon Barere and Boris Barere – Father and Son
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Piano Concerto No.1 in E flat major [16:54]
Simon Barere (piano)
Musician’s Union Symphony Orchestra/Frieder Weissmann, recorded live at the Brooklyn Museum, 1948
Simon Barere at the Marshall family home, Christmas 1949. Barere plays musical segments from Liszt’s Concerto in A flat major [2:13], Liszt-Gounod Faust Waltz [5:19], Scriabin Etude Op.42 No.3 [0:48], Chopin Etude Op.10 No.6 in G flat major Black Key [1:31] Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante [3:56] and Host’s comments [0:56]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Symphonic Etudes Op.13 [18:37]
Boris Barere (piano)
rec. New York City, 1957
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

The Nutcracker – selections; Divertissement; Chocolate-Spanish Dance, Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Pas de deux – Coda; Pas de deux – Intrada [9:42]
rec. New York City, 1954
Boris Barere – reminiscences, a DVD filmed in NYC in 2003 and 2005 with interviewer Mordecai Shehori.
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD 124 [60:31 plus free DVD 50:00]
Experience Classicsonline

This disc and DVD unites the Bareres, father and son, across the many years since Simon’s untimely death on stage, playing the Grieg Concerto. The disc presents an apparently never-before-published performance of the Liszt E flat major concerto given by Simon in 1948 as well as an evening’s musical entertainment at the home of a family friend and recorded. There are also valuable performances by Boris Barere, recordings made for Balanchine in 1954 and 1957 with a view to ballet performances by the latter.

The Liszt Concerto was given with the Musician’s Union Symphony Orchestra under Frieder Weissmann at the Brooklyn Museum. It’s survived in rough sound with some blips throughout. Luckily in the solo passages we can hear Barere better, though I wouldn’t want to pretend that this is in any way a relaxing listening experience. It’s certainly less easy on the ear than the 1946 live performance of the concerto preserved on APR. Barere steams through the Liszt in Brooklyn trailed by a gallant but rather slipshod orchestra. It’s a remarkable feat, captured in distant, crumbly sound, but which attests to Barere’s galvanic presence on stage.

Something of that sheer command can be heard in the home-recorded segments from his repertoire. He was clearly enjoying himself and can be heard off-duty along with associated party noise in the background – chatting, chortling, singing, comments. The Liszt-Gounod suffers from a wobbly tape and, again, these examples were hardly made to be preserved for posterity so we must take them for what they are – and that includes the concluding "Mah-vellous party" comments from the host. Nevertheless these are, for specialists, remarkable documents of unbridled relaxation – if only such existed of Leopold Godowsky!

Boris Barere is a distinguished musician in his own right and Cembal d’amour has documented his performances as an accompanist on previous discs. Here we have his Schumann Symphonic Etudes, recorded for Balanchine, for whose company he played, to be of use in possible choreography projects. Boris’s Schumann is powerful, purposeful, strongly delineated and characterised with an especially haunting eleventh variation. The Tchaikovsky was also a product of Boris’s Balanchine years and brief though this selection is we can hear how colouristic and engaging his playing was.

To add to his playing we have a DVD that documents an interview he gave to Mordecai Shehori. The camera work is of the homespun variety – don’t expect a Christopher Nupen set up here – and the screen image, along with the audio track, sometimes comes and goes so you occasionally need to strain to hear things. But don’t let that detain you. Barere is infectious company, a wise raconteur who lets slip the most astounding details. His father never owned a piano in his life – this is Simon Barere, one of the greatest virtuosi ever to have graced the concert stage. Still this is no hagiography. "He was a very strange man," Barere says of his father as he relates a hedge fund of relishable stories about pianist Gods of days gone by – Godowsky included. Simon apparently practised little, erratically and unsystematically – "he didn’t know how to play" Boris says at one point – and Boris labels his father "a pianistic freak." There is plenty to amuse and amaze in this interview, made salient by virtue of Shehori’s useful prompts – fees (low for Simon), Borovsky, Horowitz, Rachmaninoff, Berl Senofsky, and Heifetz ("a weirdo"). There is also a most interesting segment where Boris plays, trying to reproduce his father’s fingerings and then Shehori plays under Barere’s benign tutelage.

This is a specialist acquisition no doubt but with it you will be guaranteed a unique insight into the mind and music of the Bareres.

Jonathan Woolf




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