Piano Street Magazine

The Man Who Died on Stage at Carnegie Hall

January 17th, 2010 in Articles by | 8 comments

“In the clanging chords of the opening, he was in brilliant form. A few minutes later, he seemed to be bending close to the piano, listening. Then his left hand fell from the piano, his head almost touched the keys. A second later he rolled off the stool on to the floor. It was a cerebral hemorrhage. Doctors were called to the stage, but Simon Barere was beyond aid; within ten minutes he was dead.”
– Time Magazine, April 1951

Link: Article about the fatal Grieg concerto in Time Magazine

“You are a pianistic genius”, said the legendary Sergei Rachmaninoff to Simon Barere.
“Barere is an Anton Rubinstein in one hand and a Liszt in the other” said the famous composer Alexander Glazunov. But if you mention Simon Barere (1896-1951) to most people today, their response is “Simon Who”? Just a small group of passionate piano connoisseurs and historians will tell you that he was a freak virtuoso who stunned his audiences and those of them and others who bought his few and now very rare recordings. They placed him alongside icons of piano history such as Josef Hofmann, Ignaz Friedman, Vladimir Horowitz and Sergei Rachmaninoff. Barere was born in Odessa, Russia, as the eleventh of thirteen children. He studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory under Annette Essipova, a leading teacher of the time. After her death, he studied with Felix Blumenfeld, whose other pupils included Heinrich Neuhaus and Vladimir Horowitz.
After graduation, Barere began playing many concerts in many places, at the same time teaching at the Kiev Conservatory. He emigrated to Berlin (1932), then to Sweden (1933-40), and finally to the United States. Barere was especially known for his legendary speed and finger dexterity. According to noted music critic Harold C. Schonberg, Barere was more than a scorching virtuoso: he produced a colourful piano tone and could also be highly musical.

Barere plays two Chopin Etudes

Opus 10 No. 4 in C-sharp minor:

Opus 10 No. 8 in F major:

The Carnegie Hall Recordings

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  • Hugo says:

    Thanks a lot for this review. I m very surprised to know this wonderful and “unknown” pianist. His recordings are truly amazing. Please let us know more of this genious. Thanks a lot

  • Rob Abelar says:

    I havent hear this amazing powerhouse! thanks.

  • Cristian says:

    Wow, he is fast! I’ve never heard of this guy. Thanks for the article!

  • andreea says:

    thanks a looot! really great!:)

  • Arturo Leo says:

    Such virtuosity is not often heard. He died for sure doing what he really loved, something most of us would like to experience at the end of our life.

  • Austin says:


    Barere was an astounding pianist, and now one of my favorites. I’ve linked a record I found on another blog that I’ve been treasuring – including brilliant performances of Liszt’s Rhapsodie Espagnole and Blumenfeld’s Left Hand Etude.

  • Perz says:

    Brilliant. I’ve heard OF Barere, and about someone who died while performing at Carnegie Hall in the 1950s, but I didn’t realize that they were the same person. It’s wonderful to finally hear his virtuosity and sensitivity!

  • Liz says:

    I only found out about this artist two days ago. I’m not a piano buff and don’t know much about famous pianists. It’s the manner of his death which haunts me. As an actress who has suffered from stage fright over the years, I can’t think of anything worse than the feeling of impending disaster whilst performing in front of a huge illustrious audience and not only not knowing what is happening to you and feeling the growing loss of control, but also being in intense pain and fear and not being able to escape or do anything about it. It’s truly the stuff of nightmares! People say he died doing what he loved but I prepared to bet his last minutes were anything less than horrific. Poor man. At least it was over quickly.

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