Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Death Onstage - Simon Barere

An unforgettable image took form on the stage of Carnegie Hall in 1951...
Imagine being one in the audience and  overwhelmed  with horror as a great pianist, only a few moments after he begins the Grieg Concerto, lies slumped and motionless between the bench and the piano.
Just minutes after he was brought backstage, he was pronounced dead. A cerebral hemorrhage took an immense pianistic entity away from a world that was just getting to know this man.
The Ukrainian pianist Simon Barere had been heralded as the equal of Vladimir Horowitz in raw pianistic powers, and recordings by  Barere  of music by Liszt, Chopin and Balakirev give us certification of  his immense natural powers as a player of the instrument.
Some ask why this man is simply not as well known as a Horowitz or a Volodos or Pletnev. He certainly could reach, even exceed  the speeds that Horowitz, for one, achieves in the "Islamey" of Balakirev, or the Liszt "Gnonemreigen", as performed by Claudio Arrau in an immortal performance. For me, the primary reason, perhaps,  that we do not attach the kind of recognition to Barere as one might expect, what with his gargantuan pianism, is that the width and power of his interpretive and stylistic languages  fall short of the accompanying technique that propelled the sounds formed by the notes. Be assured that I do not deter from my admiration of his overwhelming powers as a pianist. For me, however, the Opus 10, No. 4 of Chopin says more by way of Horowitz or Ashkenazy than the wonderfully glib way of Barere, as an example.
Nevertheless, the unforgettable horror of Barere's death onstage at Carnegie Hall bears the tragic reality of the loss of a singular and  marvelous giant of the piano.



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