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Simon Barere on Remington

Simon Barere on Remington_01

Two Excellent Classics

Simon Barere has been a giant of the piano and apart from a formidable technician and remarkable artist, has reputedly been a man of great modesty and generosity, unlike lesser pianists of the past and the present. If Barere had been recorded on Decca or Mercury, then the world would have had the chance of exploring a genius of the piano as a matter of dexterity and artistry. As it is, we should be grateful that Remington has been able to secure for posterity Barere’s recordings. And this happened when Boris Barere, his son, accepted to release to Remington the tapes he had recorded of his father playing at Carnegie Hall and elsewhere. Remington made the headlines in the 50s by presenting to the music loving world LPs at less than half the price of LPs of other manufacturers.

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The problem with Remington recordings is that fidelity is mediocre and the situation deteriorates when the prototype tapes are of bad quality. Add to this fifty years of bad record handling and you arrive at LPs of less than acceptable quality. Barere’s recordings of Liszt and Chopin are legendary and appear on various Remington LPs (RLP 199-17, 199-35, 199-85, 199-141, etc). On 199-141 also appear works of Rachmaninov, Schumann, Blumenfeld and Balakirev. The Remington recordings were reissued on Turnabout (for example, the Liszt Sonata on THS-65001), while the complete 1934-1936 HMV recordings are available on APR 7001 issued in UK as a double LP in 1985. The latter is an indispensable document for any piano lover.

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Remington’s first issues have a red label with “Remington” in gold letter and a golden crown on top. First reissues on Remington vary between red gold label with the atom’s symbol and the inscriptions Musirama and 3 Dimensional Sound on the upper half of the circle (the Liszt Sonata in B Minor and Liszt’s Funeraiiles R-199-85) or the same inscriptions on blue silver label (Rachmaninov, Blumenfeld, Balakirev R-199-141), or other green gold labels without 3 dimensional sound.

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Also the hard cover differs, for example as regards the Liszt Sonata in B Minor and Liszt’s Funeraiiles R-199-85, the stripe on the front cover of the original is pink whereas in the first reissue is pinkish red. The back cover of the original is also different, the original containing information and articles about Barere, and the first reissue about Remington’s library. As regards the performance, one is astounded at the tonal control and digital dexterity of this modest master. Try the Balakirev and the Blumenfeld notoriously difficult passages, compare these to any studio recording and draw your own conclusions; even in these pieces Barere finds room for sensitive lyricism! As regards tonal control and gradation and senisitivity, the Funerailles is a good example of this pianist’s artistry.

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This pianist makes the impossible appear natural and, thus, has the ability to concentrate on aspects of interpretation even in showpieces, rather than manage to carry the piece to its end. You will hear octaves, rapid passages, scales and chords that you would not think possible to execute. From a collector’s point of view, although the first Remington issues are more collectible, try to avoid them. It is very difficult to find a good copy and even good copies have a lot of surface noise, and distortion at loud passages. The first reissues are vastly superior in terms of sound, with better vinyl quality, less surface noice and distortion and give, more than any other reissue, a good example of what this pianist was capable of.

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Remington R-199-85 (red and gold label) reissued on Remington (red and gold label with 3 dimensional sound).
Remington R-199-141 (Remington reissue on blue sliver label with 3 dimensional sound).

by Epaminondas Tsandis

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