Jorge Bolet, Vol. XVIII  -  Netherlands  (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-1282)
Item# P1429
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Jorge Bolet, Vol. XVIII  -  Netherlands  (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-1282)
P1429. JORGE BOLET: Partita #2 for Violin Unaccompanied - Chaconne in d (Bach-Busoni); Ballade in g (Grieg); Prélude, Aria & Final (Franck); Man lebt nur einmal - Waltz; Nachtfalter Walzer (both Johann Strauss II - Tausig); An der schönen blauen Donau - Arabesques (Johann Strauss II - Schulz-Evler); Le Cygne (Saint-Saëns); Etude in A-flat (De Schlözer); La Jongleuse (Moszkowski). (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-1282, Live Performance, 23 May, 1974, Arnhem, Netherlands. [If there ever was a Bolet recital not to be missed, it assuredly is this one from the Netherlands!] Transfers by Yves St Laurent.


“This recital from the Netherlands in 1974 is surely one of the finest of the 18 volumes that St-Laurent Studio has released in its Jorge Bolet Edition. If anyone is tempted to pigeonhole the great Cuban pianist, this single recital would demonstrate the folly of such an idea. The first portion of the program consists of repertoire that calls on the pianist’s interpretive depth, while for the final half hour Bolet chose a virtuoso showcase filled with flair and fun.

This should not be taken to imply that the first portion does not also require an impeccable technique. The opening work, Busoni’s transcription of Bach’s Chaconne in d minor, requires a great deal of technical finesse, but more important to a successful performance is the ability to shape the whole convincingly. Bolet’s dynamic range is enormous, and the clarity of his playing highlights the work’s contrapuntal complexity.

Franck’s Prélude, Aria et Final is the composer’s last piano work, published two years before his death in 1890. Bolet is one of the few prominent pianists who have championed it - he made a fairly staid studio recording for Decca and included it frequently in recitals. He was one of those pianists who needed an audience to truly come alive. It is a fairly austere piece, lacking in the sort of melodic invention that can sustain a 24-minute composition. Bolet’s ability to create tension over a long span is masterful, however, keeping us riveted where a lesser musician would lose our attention. Particularly in the middle-movement ‘Aria’, his careful control of dynamics and subtle adjustments of tempo assure that the music always has direction.

The next work, Grieg’s Ballade in g minor, might be the most challenging on the program. It is a set of variations on an old Norwegian mountain tune and in some ways is one of the boldest works Grieg ever penned. It is also one of his darkest pieces. He remarked that he composed it ‘with my life’s blood in days of sorrow and despair’. Grieg’s parents died in 1875, the year of its composition, and moreover he was having problems in his marriage. Bolet doesn’t shy away from this aspect of the work, applying dark colors and at times great dramatic force.

The range of tempos and moods is considerable. Bolet’s technique is astonishing here, but it is never on display merely for show. In the sixth and seventh variations, his ability to shape phrases while the notes fly by is what distinguishes Bolet’s performance - it demonstrates his unusual combination of a clear grasp of structure and at the same time a sense of fantasy. He will make an interpretive choice that surprises you, but it always fits in with the whole.

The rest of the program consists of the kind of virtuoso showpieces that have largely (and unfortunately) disappeared from concert life today. The transcriptions of three waltzes by Johann Strauss II are played with brilliance, as expected, but also with a teasing wit. As Bolet lingers over a phrase here and pushes forward there, one can almost sense him winking. His fingerwork in the softest passages is stunning in its evenness and clarity, and the generous employment of rubato is delicious. Bolet’s playing yields nothing to the great pianists of the previous generation, like Josef Hofmann and Rachmaninoff.

The applies to the three encores. Bolet’s pearly legato informs Saint-Saëns’ ‘Le cygne’. The Étude in A-flat then credited to Paul de Schlözer had long been a Bolet specialty. Many scholars doubt its authenticity, because only two such brief works survive under Schlözer’s name; some authorities think it might be by Moritz Moszkowski (whose ‘La jongleuse’ is the final encore), because the music is stylistically similar to that better-known composer. In any case, these two brief morsels are brilliant conclusions to a truly great piano recital.

This release is urgently recommended to all lovers of the piano. Producer Yves St-Laurent has done his usual high-level processing of the original monaural source, which sounds as if it was professionally recorded.”

- Henry Fogel, FANFARE