It shouldn't take more than a few seconds into the first track, the Liebesträum
No. 3, for this disc to hook you. It exhibits masterly playing of the sort we rarely hear these days or even from Bolet's later recordings for Decca/London
, when his playing was stolid and inhibited. But this Liebesträum
is awash in poetic lyricism of the first order, with marvelous legato playing.
Bolet links every note seamlessly to the next, like a string of beads, an effect reinforced by a pearly, limpid tone. Bolet always refused to subordinate his lyric gifts to mere technical facility, so even pieces other virtuosos turn into barn-burners, like Funérailes and Rhapsodie espagnole, are more measured here, with each note given its full value and the flashier aspects present but secondary to the total picture. The final track, Liszt's dazzling piano arrangement of Wagner's Tannhäuser Overture, is breathtaking, not only because of Bolet's supreme mastery of this devilishly difficult piece, but also because it was recorded in one impromptu take after a formal recording session was over.
The entire contents of this disc, recorded in 1972 and 1973, were buried in RCA's vaults and never released until now. Their discovery and release are something to be grateful for, since they burnish Bolet's posthumous reputation and give enormous pleasure. --Dan Davis