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Jorge Bolet

From Academic Kids

Jorge Bolet (November 15, 1914October 16, 1990) was a pianist and conductor.

Bolet was born in Havana in Cuba and studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he himself taught from 1939 to 1942. His teachers included Leopold Godowsky and David Saperton. His graduation recital included Chopin's Third Sonata and Godoswky's Fledemaus paraphrase. A valuable recording exists of Bolet as a student playing Busoni's reworking of Liszt's La Campanella study.

In 1942 Bolet joined the US Army and was sent to Japan. While there, he conducted the Japanese premiere of The Mikado. He came especially to prominence from the early 1970s onwards and there was a stupendous recital at Carnegie Hall, New York City, which set a seal on his reputation. Bolet, "stung by years of neglect" (as one critic put it), showed exactly what he could do and his phenomenal playing can be heard on CDs issued most recently by PHILIPS in their Great Pianists Series. He later became Head of Piano at the Curtis Institute, succeeding Rudolf Serkin, but retired from this to concetrate once again on his career.

Bolet is particularly well remembered for his performances and recordings of large-scale Romantic music, particularly works by Franz Liszt and Frederic Chopin. He also specialised in piano transcriptions and unusual repertoire, including the fiendishly difficult works of Godowsky, many of which Bolet had studied with the composer himself.

The DECCA/London recording company made important recordings of key sections of his repertoire from 1978 onwards. But there are also tapes of many live concerts which can be found in archives, principally the International Piano Archive at Maryland. These include a speciality, the J. Strauss/Godowsky Fledermaus paraphrase (Butler University, 1976). It is to be hoped that the BBC will release some of their valuable tapes.

Much can be said about his playing: there are people who have no appreciation for his technique for instance. It should be borne in mind that his way of playing was very suitable for Liszt and related composers, making his music exel in transparancy, it may not suit the conventional classical repertoire like Beethoven. However, Mozart is said to suit him well. Liszt's Années de Pelerinage and several of his other monsterpieces are mastered superbly by him.

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