Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Jorge Bolet Plays César Franck

Several writers about the music scene recently have been commenting upon the renaissance, as far as the ordinary concertgoer is concerned, of pianist Jorge Bolet. The Cuban-born pianist, 70, has had a long concert career, but somehow that career didn't catch fire until the past few years.
Recently, Bolet became head of the piano department at Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, where he became a student when he was only 12. After his graduation from Curtis, he made a debut tour in Europe : Nothing happened. He returned to Curtis to study conducting, was told he would never be a conductor and returned to the piano. He won two major piano prizes in New York in 1937 and 1938, but, again, nothing happened. In the early 1950s, he made his first recording - with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Once more, that was more or less it.
Audiences kept discovering Bolet as a tremendous pianist and then forgetting him. About 1960, someone in the movie industry had enough sense to sign up Bolet as the pianist for the movie "Song Without End," and moviegoers who bothered toread titles saw the piano soundtrack, mostly works by Liszt, was by Bolet. Again, there was a discovery, but moviegoers and concertgoers are not necessarily the same crowd, and, according to one interview, with AP writer Mary Campbell, Bolet thinks that the "he's gone Hollywood" label did more harm than good.
I first heard Bolet in 1954 at an Allentown Community Concert performance in Allentown Symphony Hall. The newspapers made a big fuss about Bolet's hauling his own piano with him in a trailer, but I remember primarily that Bolet played Cesar Franck's Prélude, Aria et Finale during the recital and that I was convinced this was a great pianist. I believe the program included Schubert, Beethoven and Liszt, but I remember the Franck. Strangely enough, when Bolet returned to Allentown as guest soloist for an Allentown Symphony Orchestra concert in 1981, he played Franck again, this time the Variations symphoniques, and, of course, Liszt - the A major concerto.
In 1981, Bolet was already in his rediscovery period. In 1954, few people knew who he was. In 1981, he had been hitting the comeback trail, so to speak, with a vengeance. He was being judged by knowledgeable listeners as probably the greatest Liszt interpreter since the days of Petri and Busoni. Critics were admitting Bolet is a giant in more ways than his 6 foot 3 height, and concerts and recitals were selling out. He is reported to be appearing 150 times in concert or recital this season alone, and several recording engagements either have been filled or will be filled in short order.
Several years ago, too, I heard Bolet in Reading, where, it seemed that the audience did not quite grasp what extraordinary musicianship was being displayed. The pianist began the recital in the Rajah Theater with the Op. 116 of Brahms, a set of intermezzi and capricci which probably tax the mind more than the fingers and which Bolet played with a control and a maturity which had this listener, at least, lost in total admiration. The program also displayed some of what may be the most technically difficult works in the entire piano literature, a selection of the Godowsky reworkings of the Chopin etudes and waltzes. Bolet negotiated these incredible transmogrifications with complete clarity and with a proficiency which looked absurdly simple. Perhaps only pianists could appreciate the obstacles overcome with such apparent ease, but that was some recital!
The Bolet rediscovery is not all that unusual in musical circles except that generally such recrudescence happens earlier in a performer's career. Both Artur Rubinstein and Walter Gieseking received something less than rave reviews upon their first appearances in this country, and Vladimir Horowitz, of course, deliberately retired from the concert stage for a while. Why this sort of thing happens has no single, simple answer. It has always puzzled this listener particularly in Bolet's case because Bolet has always been a consummate pianist, particularly in the romantic repertoire, which, after all, seems to be the general public's favorite segment of music history. Everything may indeed come to the person who waits, but the waiting can be frustrating. Bolet's tenacity apparently is finally being rewarded as it should be.
Albert Hofamann, November 18, 1984, Sunday Call-Chronicle.

Source :

Jorge Bolet
César Franck


Prélude, choral et fugue
1 Prélude  5:05
2 Choral  7:18
3 Fugue  7:25

Prélude, aria et final
4 Prélude  10:05
5 Aria  6:35
6 Final  7:40

7 Variations Symphoniques*  17:06

Jorge Bolet - p
Concertgebouw Orchestra*
Ricardo Chailly* - dir.

Recorded at Walthamstow Town Hall, London ; February 1988 [# 1-6] ; at Grote Zaal, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Holland ; April 1987 [# 7]

1 comment:

Melanchthon said...