The Music Column

Simon Pure and Impure


The other day I came across the pianist Simon Barere on YouTube, and I was glad to see him there—the recognition he has received is certainly deserved, though it is hard to know what would be the appropriate reward to a performer who never got his due.  And just when he seemed to be getting his reward on April 2, 1951, while playing the Grieg Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy, he collapsed at the keyboard and soon died offstage in Carnegie Hall: He was gone at age 54.

Simon Barere was born in Odessa in 1896 and later studied with Felix Blumenfeld, as did Vladimir Horowitz, born in 1903.  Barere had a hard time establishing himself and emigrating from country to country.  He seems to have been mismanaged and unlucky on many occasions, but he was also a man who could shock and attract audiences with his virtuosity.  He was a good musician in spite of a temperament that sometimes led him to musical excesses, overdoing it just because he could.

Seeing the name took me back to at least three times that recordings—and memories—of Simon Barere were central to episodes in my musical and human experience.  And so before I relate those matters, I must insist that YouTube has put paid to any thought of Barere’s recordings...

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