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Jorge Bolet: A Forgotten Master or A Master Never Recognized?


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Initial post: Jul 9, 2009 9:24:16 PM PDT
Dmitri says:
I just looked up Jorge Bolet's biography. He died about 20 years ago in 1990. I remember seeing videos of him playing the piano on the Music and Arts channel or Bravo.

Liszt a trashy composer? You better ask Jorge Bolet first. I have not one recording of his and I ask myself why? If he was as good as he sounded through a crumby TV speaker then he would sound great on my stereo.

Any thoughts about Bolet? Am I making too big of deal about him? Is he a forgotten master? Or should he just be forgotten?

Posted on Jul 9, 2009 9:53:25 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 10, 2009 9:22:47 AM PDT
Mandryka says:
He looks so cool -- there's a photo on one of his GPOC volumes which makes him look like a 1940s Freddie Mercury. I believe he was gay and out and died of AIDS -- can someone confirm?

There are two outstanding Chopin recordings. One is his Carnegie Hall performance of The Preludes. It's a somewhat sombre reading, but is totally convincing and after about the second prelude you can tell he is on to a roll. Along with Arrau's Prague Spring recording, this is my favourite Chopin Preludes.

The other is a CD set from Marston records with an amazingly poetic B Minor sonata and some outstanding Scherzos. It's a tremendous set, well worth hunting down. It could well be my favourite sonata performance.

As far as the rest of his recorded legacy goes, a lot of it is second rate music. Bravura pieces by Rubinstein, Tausig, Godowsky, Rachmaninov and stuff of that ilk. But he does it all well enough I suppose.

He's most famous for his Liszt and he's great in the transcriptions (Schubert/Liszt or Liszt/Wagner). I like his mainstream Liszt too -- Annees, Etudes. But that's quite unusual -- many people reject his Liszt, saying it lacks drama -- even though everyone seems to like the sound world he makes. He certainly is very different from Cziffra, say. Or Arrau.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2009 10:05:15 PM PDT
Dmitri says:
One thing I never forget about Bolet visually speaking were the cigars he would have in his mouth.

A very minor point. Nonetheless kind of signature thing of his.

Posted on Jul 9, 2009 10:07:28 PM PDT
Mandryka says:
Ahh -- that's put me off him a bit.

Posted on Jul 10, 2009 7:05:47 AM PDT
Piso Mojado says:
Mandryka, that's right about Bolet. I saw him play twice in California ... Rachmaninoff's two Kreisler arrangements, "Liebesfreud" and "Liebesleid", Brahms Handel variations, and a lot of Liszt including the "Benediction". He made a beautiful record of Bizet-Godowsky "Adagietto" on a Philips encores album. He plays a program of Liszt paraphrases on the Spanish label Ensayo CD-9742, recorded in Barcelona in 1969 ... Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Donizetti, Wagner, Liszt, and Verdi.

In 2001 RCA issued his re-discovered Liszt recital recorded in 1972-1973 and including the Tannhaeuser Overture. They quoted Harold Schonberg of the New York Times: "Bolet was one of the great Liszt pianists of the century, with the fingers of a Horowitz and the tone of Josef Lhevinne." RCA issued two LPs of his 1974 Carnegie Hall recital used in Philips's Great Pianists of the 20C. Certainly a pianist worth remembering.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2009 7:16:40 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Feb 14, 2010 8:59:34 AM PST]

Posted on Jul 10, 2009 7:28:37 AM PDT
scarecrow says:
If you go to youtube there are some wonderful MasterClasses with Bolet, in particualr the Rachmaninov Piano Concerti, He was always fascinated by the "shape" of music, the phrase and how to give it life. . . or death. . .

Posted on Jul 10, 2009 10:40:50 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 10, 2009 12:01:53 PM PDT
He took on the Liszt transcription of Wagner's "Tannhauser" Overture, a remarkable thing in and of itself. I think there are at least two attempts on record, one of which, if memory serves, prompted someone in the Penguin Guide to write, "Surely this can only be played in a four-hands version." Or something like that.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2009 11:49:37 AM PDT
Piso Mojado says:
A.A. -- Benno Moiseiwitsch also has a famous record of the Tannhaeuser Overture. It's also on a DVD that he shares with Michelangeli.

Posted on Jul 10, 2009 1:37:51 PM PDT
Jorge Bolet is one of my favourite pianists.

I am not sure that all biographical details provided above are correct. However, I'm more interested in Bolet's pianism and his recordings than in his private life.

There is a good website devoted to Bolet: http://www.freewebs.com/jorge-bolet/. It has links to youtube and references to Bolet's discography.

Some personal favourites in my Bolet collection (some of them have already been mentioned):

1. Jorge Bolet in Concert, Vol. 1 (Marstonrecords). Chopin.
Includes a terrific Fantasie-impromptu in C sharp minor, 3rd Piano sonata, 4 scherzi, nocturnos, Polonaises Op. 26, Nos. 1-2.

2. Prokofiev: 2nd piano concerto in G minor, Op. 16. Jorge Bolet, Thor Johnson/Cincinnati SO (1953).
IMO the greatest recording of this devilishly difficult concerto. If you don't believe, try any other version of Prokofiev, Op. 16 (incl. Bolet's later remake) and then compare it with this one.

3. Bolet rediscovered (RCA). Includes great Liszt recordings made for the RCA in early 1970-s. The studio Tannhaueser-overture with Bolet is available only here. Many items from this Liszt selection are IMHO far superior to later Bolet's variants made for Decca.

4. Carnegie Hall recital 1974 (RCA), also available in the series 'Great pianists of the XX century'. Includes a terrific Bach-Busoni Ciaconna (interesting to compare with Michelangeli), Chopin Preludes Op. 28 and the Tannhaueser overture.

5. Baldwin piano LP (Liszt, Chopin-Liszt). A very rare disc made shortly before Bolet recorded these pieces for Decca.

6. Jorge Bolet: Encores (Decca/London).

7. Schubert-Liszt transcriptions (also available as CD-2 of the 9 CD-set on Decca).

Posted on Jul 10, 2009 1:46:33 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Dec 28, 2012 9:49:36 PM PST
John Ruggeri says:
This is the last CD of Bolet I purchased and recorded late in his career.. I have about 8 others. Warm tone and sensitive feeling and tremendous technique mark his work. Harold Schoenberg's evaluation is on point. Thanks for the reminder Piso. Schoenberg''s evaluation of pianists IMO is excellent and insightful.

Concerto for Piano no 2 in C minor, Op. 18 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer: Jorge Bolet (Piano)
Conductor: Charles Dutoit
Orchestra/Ensemble: Montreal Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: Russia

2. Concerto for Piano no 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer: Jorge Bolet (Piano)

========================================
Enjoy- the warm tone and phrasing are marvelous

Jorge Bolet plays Liszt Ballade in B minor finale
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6F44inpd6Q&feature=PlayList&p=AC0BF8D254112BE4&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=12

Posted on Jul 10, 2009 2:39:38 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 10, 2009 2:42:56 PM PDT
Mandryka says:
AZ

I had forgotten about that performance of the Bach/Busoni chaconne -- I will compare it to Michelangeli as you suggest.
I had also forgotten about the Nocturnes on the Marston disc. Thanks.

I just listened again to his Schubert/Liszt -- it really gives the lie to the myth that he was concerned with beauty of tone at the expense of drama. It's an outstanding recording.

I'll try to get time to listen to the Liszt Etudes soon.

I like the Chopin Preludes from the Carnegie Hall a lot -- but am I alone in finding his reading perculiarly sombre? Sombreness may be appropriate of course -- it's not meant to be a negative criticism.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2009 3:26:33 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 11, 2009 1:48:07 AM PDT
Mandryka,

a few remarks on Bolet's Liszt studies. The 'RCA rediscovered' has a terrific 'Campanella'. He recorded '12 transcedental etudes' three times - 1958 (incomplete ), 1969 (Ensayo) and 1980-s (Decca). Those 1958 etudes I happened to hear are great. The Decca recording is too reserved for my taste, but it has the greatest No. 12 'Chasse-neige' I heard - Bolet makes a real snow-storm out of it: Liszt's tempo indication is Andante con moto - and Bolet cleverly plays it as written, not as Allegro molto (cf. Cziffra).

Yes, his Carnegie Hall preludes are sombre. But Chopin was in sombre mood when he composed it, right?

You mentioned Brahms's Handel variations, Op. 24, on another thread. Bolet recorded it for Decca; it is coupled with Reger's variations on a theme by Telemann - music in the same vein as Brahms Op. 24. I like this CD.

John Ruggeri -- you will laugh at me, but I don't have Rachmaninov's 2nd concerto with J.B! I have only his 1969 live recording of Rach's 3rd concerto on Palexa.

Posted on Jul 10, 2009 3:59:26 PM PDT
MacDoom says:
One of the first two releases when Chailly joined the Concertgebouw Orchestra was Franck's symphony (and not badly done at all!) coupled with the symphonic varioations - with Bolet. Probably not easy to get hold of now, but I didn't need to try (lucky me).

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2009 5:22:03 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 10, 2009 5:22:58 PM PDT
John Ruggeri says:
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2009 3:26 PM PDT
Anton Zimmerling says
John Ruggeri -- you will laugh at me, but I don't have Rachmaninov's 2nd concerto with J.B
================
Anton. It is wonderful performance, My favorite is with Moissevitch. A friend who loved the CTO and had
7,000 CDs never heard of Benno till I mentioned him. He heard the Rach 2 with Benno and it became his favorite version. Benno along with Horowitz/Michelangeli/Friedman is a pianist, all of whose recordings. I want to own.

BTW the first complete Piano Concerto I owned was with Rach 2 - the early recording with Ashkenasky/Kondrashin. I was lost in the beauty of the piece and performance.

John

Posted on Jul 10, 2009 5:26:21 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 10, 2009 5:27:10 PM PDT
Auntie Lynn says:
He used to teach over at that music school on Jackson Street here in town. I went over there a couple of times. He was very, very tough and riotou$ly expen$ive...but it was worth it. Teachers like this can give you, in a couple of hours, what might take you a lifetime to achieve with lesser lights...

Posted on Jul 11, 2009 3:13:07 PM PDT
K. Beazley says:
One of my most prized piano CD's is Bolet's recording on Decca of Schubert/Liszt lieder transcriptions. I also own the complete transcriptions recorded by Lesley Howard on Hyperion, but nowhere does Howard approach the sheer depth of poetry, drama & underlying passion that Bolet finds in every piece. On this one CD is an examination of virtually the whole emotional spectrum; a wonderful study of the emotional depth & sheer beauty of Schubert's lieder writing, & the almost devotional fidelity to the original of Liszt; all produced superbly by a marvellous pianist, who I would certainly say was under-appreciated. This CD, though I see it has been deleted, can still be had cheaply (albeit used) from Amazon, & I recommend it highly.

Regards,

Kim.Schubert Song Transcriptions

Posted on Jul 11, 2009 3:36:14 PM PDT
Piso Mojado says:
Bolet recorded many Godowsky transcriptions, and they've been announced for reissue but I haven't seen them yet or read any recent reviews. Anyone know about this?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2009 4:26:16 PM PDT
John Ruggeri says:
Piso

I only found this. I gather there is more out there of Godowsky.

John

Jorge Bolet: Encores
Isaac Albeniz (Composer), Georges Bizet (Composer), Frederic Chopin (Composer), Claude Debussy (Composer), Leopold Godowsky (Composer), Felix Mendelssohn (Composer), Moritz Moszkowski (Composer), Paul de Schlozer (Composer), Franz Schubert (Composer), Jorge Bolet (Performer)

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 28, 2012 8:37:59 AM PST
Troy Beal says:
I heard Bolet in recital a number of times in London, in the 1980s playing Chopin and Liszt.
He was a truly great pianist.

Posted on Dec 28, 2012 9:40:11 AM PST
John Spinks says:
I bought most of his Liszt on Decca/London (early 80s) which I found to be less flashy and more subtle than many others.

I like his recording of Brahms Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24 coupled with Reger's Variation and Fugue on a Theme by Telemann, Op. 134.

I have him in the Chausson Concert for Violin, Piano and String Quartet in D major, Op. 21 with Perlman and the Julliard String Quartet.

I need to relisten to that RCA Tannhauser as well.

Posted on Dec 28, 2012 10:46:36 AM PST
Liszt: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2; Sonata in B minor; Mephisto Waltz
is certainly a little gem among Liszt's concerto recordings.
Bolet never got the chance to re-record them for Decca, but this (originally) Vox recording with Zinman conducting is fine and certainly worth the modest cost.

Of course, sick fugue that I am, my 'goto' versions of these two are the old brendel/Geilen also on Vox.

Posted on Dec 28, 2012 2:36:27 PM PST
I saw him play a concerto in Providence when I was a teenager. Alas, I can't recall which one.

He had a massive technique and a huge sonority.

Posted on Dec 29, 2012 2:04:06 AM PST
S. Benson says:
Whoah, no-one has mentioned the Sgambati Concerto, with its crazy, zany impetuous first movement, which he recorded for Genesis, possibly still available on cd

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 29, 2012 4:43:42 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Dec 29, 2012 4:44:14 AM PST]
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Discussion in:  Classical Music forum
Participants:  17
Total posts:  28
Initial post:  Jul 9, 2009
Latest post:  Dec 31, 2012

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