Notes and Editorial Reviews
I’ve reviewed two previous releases of Barere: the fourth volume of his live Carnegie Hall recitals (APR 5624) and his last recording sessions (Cembal d’Amour 114). Each has its merits, though I preferred the third Carnegie Hall release (APR 5623) to the fourth as more representative of the pianist’s finest qualities. This CD, in any case, is superior to all three as an introduction to Barere’s art. The sound is not only very good for its vintage, but richer in ambiance than the late 1940s—early 1950s material from the last sessions. (In fairness to the latter, it should be noted that they were privately made by the composer’s son, and reissued from worn copies of a
previous commercial LP release.) It is far preferable to the legendary Carnegie Hall series, despite the electrifying atmosphere of those live concerts, because of their poor audio quality. Nor does Barere sound rushed or inhibited on these studio recordings from the mid 1930s. No, not rushed: the pianist actually seems as relaxed or more so than in the live recitals, despite the timing limitations of 78-rpm platters; and he apparently possessed an excellent working relationship with HMV that permitted a significant degree of artist control over final approval. As for being inhibited, if Barere’s playing ever suffered from that, the matter has yet to come to light. I don’t want to give the impression that the pianist was vulgar or flashy, for his remarkable technique always remained at the service of the composer. But Barere apparently never lacked for the appropriate rhetoric in some of the Romantic Era’s most extroverted and characteristic compositions.
These performances are extraordinary by any standards: the pearly, perfectly even runs of
; the distinct duality of tone and sculpted beauty of line employed in the “La ci darem il mano” duet in
Réminiscences de Don Juan
begins at a faster clip than is common these days—when a pianist dares attempt a climb of this treacherous mountain of technique—but with no loss to articulation or phrasing. The central section reveals a perfectly natural sense of
and a warmth of tone that no shellac grooves or wear can possibly conceal. As much can be said of the
Petrarch Sonnet No. 104
, with a demonstration of Barere’s ability to move swiftly from Liszt’s extravagantly over-sized romantic gestures to a spider-web filigree of scintillating ornamentation.
Delicacy and clarity achieved with a quiet touch is on display in Godowsky’s
Renaissance No. 12
, based on a gigue by Loeillet. But then, Liszt’s
is the king for that, as much a minefield for the player as it is a confectionary’s delight for the listener; and Barere combines a range of carefully colored halftones with mercurial embellishments in a manner that is nothing less than astonishing. No pedal swamps the music and conceals an imperfect technique. Everything is open to view and just admiration.
CD lengths are reasonable, with six alternate and unpublished takes included, as well. The liner notes are up to APR’s usual standards: high ones, indeed, providing a discography of the HMV recordings and a list of all selections with record dates and matrix numbers. The only reason I can think of why you wouldn’t want to get this release is because it will make so many other pianists in similar music seem bland, callow, and unimaginative. So they are; but you will never regret the purchase of this release.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Works on This Recording
Rhapsodie espagnole for Piano, S 254 by Franz Liszt
Simon Barere (Piano)
Written: circa 1863; Rome, Italy
Date of Recording: 6/1935
Length: 11 Minutes 47 Secs.
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