Jorge Bolet, Vol. XV - University of Maryland  (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-1264)
Item# P1408
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Jorge Bolet, Vol. XV - University of Maryland  (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-1264)
P1408. JORGE BOLET: Brahms, Godowsky, Moszkowski, Chopin, Liszt, Liszt-Schubert & Schubert (the latter's Wanderer Fantasy). (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-1264, Live Performance, 7 Aug., 1979, University of Maryland. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.


“We are fortunate in the number of live recordings by the Cuban virtuoso pianist Jorge Bolet (1914–1990) that have been preserved. In addition to Ward Marston’s invaluable collection of 6 CDs [P1152], the Canadian label St-Laurent Studio is now up to Vol. 15 in their Bolet series. One reason for the existence of all this material is that Bolet was regularly engaged to play recitals at American music conservatories, most of which make professional-quality recordings of performances students to study. This is particularly important in the case of Bolet, whose studio recordings do not represent his best playing. He tended to stiffen in the recording studio, as if afraid to take risks.

Bolet was a throwback. The pianists he most admired were Hofmann, Rachmaninoff, and Cortot. On this recital from 1979 we hear playing that feels almost improvisatory. Bolet’s tone is warm, his legato seamless, his dynamic variety virtually unlimited. In Leopold Godowsky’s Études from Chopin Bolet seems to find infinite variations of piano and pianissimo in #15 (based on Chopin’s Étude, op. 10/7). In #1 (based on op. 10/1) he thunders without ever banging.

Bolet was more than a brilliant virtuoso, however. He was also a thoughtful interpreter who never lost sight of the shape of a piece, even as he applied rubato liberally. What he does not do is perform everything with the same approach. The Brahms Op. 116 set is given an intimate reading - even the climaxes are held a bit in reserve, which suits the nature of the music. Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy is played somewhat more impulsively and explosively, but still within appropriate boundaries for music written in 1822. Schubert himself referred to the work’s extreme technical difficulties, but one is not aware of them in Bolet’s performance. The lyricism that is so often at the heart of Schubert’s music is rendered beautifully. CD 2 continues with the final scheduled work on the program, Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody #12, before the three encores. Bolet seems to be enjoying himself hugely in the Liszt, clearly relishing every moment. He shifts dynamics and tempos at the drop of a hat but never to the point of distortion. The richness of tone at a soft dynamic in the Chopin Nocturne is sheer magic. We’re back to having fun with Moszkowski’s ‘La jongleuse’, played with puckish wit. The recital ends with a richly colored reading of Liszt’s transcription of Schubert’s ‘Auf dem Wasser zu singen’.

The piano sound is a touch on the dry side, as if miked just a bit too closely, and there is some noise from the original source, but producer Yves St.-Laurent has done his usual expert job with a faithful reproduction. Those who attended this University of Maryland recital were fortunate to hear one of the pianistic giants in Bolet’s generation. We are fortunate that St-Laurent Studio has made it available to the rest of us.”

- Henry Fogel, FANFARE