Music: Death in Carnegie Hall

When Russian-born Simon Barere made his U.S. debut in 1936, he was hailed as "a pianist of the first rank." He had everything—thunder, poetry, brilliance and dazzling speed. But somehow Simon Barere, a man with little flair for the limelight, failed to catch the fancy of the crowds.

Moreover, he seemed to suffer from chronic bad luck. As a young man (a conservatory classmate of Sergei Prokofiev) he won the Rubinstein Prize, but his career was thrown off pace by World War I and the Bolshevik revolution. His first tour of England fell apart before it got started when his English manager...

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