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At the age of eight Abbey Simon began private studies with Josef Hofmann and at ten was awarded a scholarship by Hofmann to study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where Hofmann was director. Simon studied with David Saperton, Dora Zaslavsky and Harold Bauer and also had private lessons in New York from Leopold Godowsky. When he was nineteen, Simon won the Naumberg Award, and this launched his career. He made his New York recital debut at Town Hall and during the 1940s played throughout America with many orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia, Chicago Symphony and the Minneapolis Symphony.

In 1949 Simon made his debut in Europe playing in Rome, Amsterdam and Paris. At his London debut in June at the Wigmore Hall he played a programme that included Brahms’s Variations on a theme by Paganini Op. 35. Subsequently, Simon toured the world playing in the Middle East, East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and South America where he played five recitals in Caracas, four in Lima, five in Buenos Aires and three in Montevideo. Since that first tour of South America, Simon has returned there nine times.

Simon’s teaching career includes fourteen years at Indiana University, a post at the Juilliard School of Music in New York, and the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor Chair at the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston. One of Simon’s most well known pupils is Frederic Chiu.

In the early 1990s Simon was struck by a car in Amsterdam, causing severe injuries to his hands: the first three fingers of the right hand and the thumb of the left were smashed. However Simon underwent reconstructive surgery in Geneva and within only three months he was playing at Carnegie Hall.

Simon is a pianist in the great Romantic tradition. His repertoire centres on Chopin, Schumann, Rachmaninov and Ravel, and he has a virtuoso technique which he employs with effortless ease coupled with a smooth, clear sound. Simon made a few recordings for Philips and HMV, but the majority of his recorded output is on the Vox label. For HMV around 1958 he recorded a fine LP of both piano concertos by Chopin with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Eugene Goossens, and a recital disc which included the complete Études d’exécution transcendante d’après Paganini by Liszt, César Franck’s Prelude, Choral et Fugue and Schumann’s ‘Abegg’Variations Op. 1. Around 1955 Simon recorded Brahms’s ‘Paganini’ and ‘Handel’ Variations and some of the late piano pieces for Philips, as well as the Piano Concerto Op. 16 by Grieg with The Hague Philharmonic Orchestra and Willem van Otterloo. In the 1960s he also recorded Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini Op. 43 and Dohnányi’s Variations on a Nursery Song Op. 25 with the same forces. For Vox, Simon has recorded all the works for piano and orchestra by Rachmaninov, the complete piano works of Ravel, and the major piano works of Chopin and Schumann. The Rachmaninov set from the mid-1970s is extremely good and deserves to be better known. Simon’s dazzling technique is integral to his music-making and his clarity and lack of portentousness make these concertos sound new and fresh. Equally impressive is Simon’s recording of the complete études by Chopin recorded in 1976. Again, his formidable technique serves the music and there is not a whiff of superficiality. In the complete waltzes he takes rapid tempos whilst the complete nocturnes from 1982 are beautifully shaped and phrased, played with grace and elegance. More recent recordings of the two piano sonatas, and complete scherzos and ballades, are less flexible; but the complete works for piano and orchestra, recorded in Hamburg in 1972, afford many delights, as does a highly enjoyable disc of transcriptions from 1980 where Simon plays arrangements by Godowsky, Rachmaninov, Liszt and Abram Chasins.

Role: Classical Artist 
Album Title
Catalogue No  Work Category 
Chamber Music (Winds) - BRAHMS, J. / MOZART, W.A. / BEETHOVEN, L. / HAYDN, F. (Silfies, Bowman, Woodhams, Pandolfi, J. Berg) Vox Box
Chamber Music
CHOPIN, F.: Etudes / Waltzes (Complete) (A. Simon) Vox Box
CHOPIN, F.: Nocturnes (Complete) (A. Simon) Vox Box
CHOPIN, F.: Piano and Orchestra Works (Complete) (Simon, Hamburg Symphony, Beissel) Vox Box
Concerto, Orchestral
CHOPIN, F.: Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 and 3 / Ballades Nos. 1-4 / Scherzos Nos. 1-4 / Impromptus Nos. 1-3 (A. Simon) Vox Box
PAGANINI, N.: Violin Concerto No. 2 / LISZT, F.: Grandes études de Paganini (Paganini Variations) (Kantorow, J. Rose, Tomšič, P. Frankl, R. Ricci) Vox Box
Piano Recital: Simon, Abey - GODOWSKY, L. / RACHMANINOV, S. / LISZT, F. / GLUCK, C.W. (The Piano Virtuoso) Allegretto
RACHMANINOV, S.: Piano and Orchestra Works (Complete) (Simon, Saint Louis Symphony, Slatkin) Vox Box
RACHMANINOV, S.: Symphonies / Piano Concertos / Orchestral Works (Complete) (Christos, Plante, Voketaitis, A. Simon, Saint Louis Symphony, Slatkin) Vox
RAVEL, M.: Orchestral Works (Complete), Vol. 1 - Piano Concerto in G Major / String Quartet in F Major (Minnesota Orchestra, Skrowaczewski) Vox Box
RAVEL, M.: Orchestral Works (Complete), Vol. 2 - Piano Concerto for the Left Hand / Ma mère l'oye Suite (Minnesota Orchestra, Skrowaczewski) Vox Box
RAVEL, M.: Solo Piano Music (Complete) (A. Simon) Vox Box
ROMANTIC PIANO CONCERTO ANTHOLOGY (THE), Vol. 3 (Ponti, Littauer, List, Blumental, Keller, Glazer, Dosse, Boehm, Marciano, Simon, Paillard-Francaix) Vox
SCHUMANN, R.: Carnaval / Fantasy, Op. 17 (A. Simon) Allegretto

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