"In the front rank of the younger generation of pianists" has been a frequent comment by music critics in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and the major cities of Europe, when speaking of the concert appearances or the brilliant American pianist, Abbey Simon. Leading conductors have given high praise to Mr. Simon, who is recognised as an important figure on the musical scene.
A New Yorker by birth, Abbey Simon received part of his academic education and his major musical training at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he was accepted by Joseph Hofmann when he was eleven years old. Shortly after his graduation from Curtis, he won the coveted Walter W. Naumberg award, which carries with it a Town Hall debut in New York City. The debut recital was followed by recitals in new York’s Carnegie Hall and extensive tours throughout the United States and Canada, which were interrupted only for enlistment in the United States army during the war.
After an audition, Dimitri Mitropoulos was moved to write of Abbey’s playing :
“I confess that rarely has a young artist given me such deep musical satisfaction and brilliant technique at the same time. The boy, for me, has tremendous possibilities to compete with the most outstanding musical personalities of America, because I believe that he possesses not only pianistic abilities, but he also has a musical mind and soul of the first rank.”
This glowing endorsement led to appearances with America’s major orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, The Boston Philharmonic, the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington D.C., the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra, among others.
Mr Simon’s first New York recital in Carnegie Hall was deemed of such unusual merit and received such critical acclaim that he was awarded and appearance with the National orchestral Association, under the leadership of Leon Barzin, for having given the most outstanding piano recital of the year in New York by an artist under the age of 30 !
In his first tour of the major music centres of Europe, which included Rome, the Hague, Amsterdam, Paris and London, Mr. Simon was enthusiastically acclaimed by near-capacity audiences and by the European press. One critic summed it up thus :
“One can try to describe the masterly playing of Abbey Simon, thereby having to exhaust all existing superlatives, but the mysterious beauty of his playing cannot be described by words. We have heard much music in that very hall, but one has to think back twenty years until Horowitz’s debut, to remember an equal event.”
Another critic wrote : “A pianist giant… especially, the name of Abbey Simon has to be remembered.”
In Scandinavia, Mr. Simon was hailed by the press and the finest American pianist to have played in that part of Europe.
In London, Mr. Simon received another accolade when he was awarded the Elisabeth Sprague Coolidge Medal for having given the best performance in London by any artist on any instrument that year.
On his first tour of South America, Mr Simon had one of the most phenomenal successes by any artist, playing five recitals in Caracas, four in Lima, five in Buenos Aires, three in Montevideo, plus numerous provincial concerts and orchestral arrangements, resulting in immediate re-engagements for the following season in all places where he had played. He has since toured South America nine times !
Abbey Simon has been heard with most of the great orchestras of Europe under such eminent conductors as Sir John Barbirolli, Joseph Krips, Sir Malcolm Sargent, Walter Susskind, Colin Davis, Antal Dorati, Rafael Kubelik, George Szell, Wilhelm von Otterloo, Dean Dixon, Massimo Freccia, Eduard van Beinum, Carlo Maria Giulini, Ozawa, Mehta, Leinsdorf.
Mr. Simon has recorded under Phillips and HMV labels , and is now under exclusive contract to Vox Records for whom he has recorded the complete works of Ravel, as well as some of the piano repertoire of Schumann and Chopin. Of Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit », which has been recently released, Stereo Review has written :
“Pianist Abbey Simon has achieved in this recording, performances or the piano music of Ravel which I can only describe as being among the best I have ever heard (and I have heard some good ones !). What makes these remarkable even by comparison with the other “greats” is Simon’s immensely authoritative feeling for the rhythmic structuring, which, when it is fully felt and expressed in Ravel, takes the music over into another dimension of meaning……These are as close to ideal performances as I ever expect to hear, and the recorded sound is well-nigh perfect.”