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Jorge Bolet (1914-1990)


Jorge Bolet's booking ad from 1950 mentioning his engagements with the orchestras of Dallas, Pittsburgh and New Orleans, and with the New York Philharmonic and the National Symphony.
(From the SoundFountain Archive)

 

 

 

 

Gabor issued Remington recordings in Germany on the Diamant label. Curiously enough record and label of release No. 739 with Prokofiev's Piano Concerto with Jorge Bolet mentions the Austrian Symphony Orchestra instead of the Cincinnati Symphony.
 

 

 

 







Picture from
Alexander Bayen's Liszt page. Courtesy Alexander Bayen.

Alexander Bayen is a amateur Liszt player.

 

 

 

 



Jorge Bolet at the time of the recording of the soundtrack for 'Song without End'

 

 

 

 

 




Everest SDBR 3064 with Liszt's Sonata

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jorge Bolet at Carnegie Hall, recorded live February 25, 1974 (RCA ARL2-0512)

 

 

 

 


Turnabout TV-S34543

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jorge Bolet was not so much the pianist to play a Bach Partita, a refined Mozart Adagio or a dramatic Beethoven Sonata. He may have played Bach in an adaptation by Busoni, and he may have exemplified Beethoven and Mozart when he was teaching - Bolet was a much-loved teacher. But if he played these great composers, then most likely in his own private atmosphere for friends and rarely in a concert hall.

Indeed, rare were his Beethoven performances. He had performed Beethoven's Concerto No. 4, Op. 58, with Thor Johnson on May 4th, 1954)*.
Later in his career he played ‘Les Adieux’ at the Edinburgh Festival, the 'Moonlight Sonata' at the Barbican Hall in London; and there was a ‘Moonlight Sonata', in which he achieved a marvelous simplicity and limpid sound in the first movement, but he kept the last movement curiously small in scale, though wonderfully fleet. However there was an unfortunate performance of the ‘Appassionata’, a recording made on the continent and relayed by the BBC.
Yet Bolet gave a wonderful performance of Op. 110.)**


Above all, Jorge Bolet was the man of the complexity of Liszt, Chopin, Godowsky and Rachmaninoff - however diverse the styles in which these composers may have written for the mighty concert grand - and of Prokofiev, as he did materialize on Remington R-199-182 playing the Second Piano Concerto in G minor, Op. 16, with the Cincinnati Symphony under Thor Johnson. This performance - recorded in the fall of 1953 - was immediately noted and qualified as remarkable when the recording was released in December 1954 - and it still is today.
Bolet's concept of Prokofiev is broad and moving. He has a great feeling for the varying moods ranging from the subtleness in phrasing to the distressing virtuosity, from the bombastic allure to the sensitive melody and to the diabolic passages. His empathy is great. His is a Prokofiev in optima forma, despite the fact that there is a cut in the cadenza. The cooperation of Thor Johnson is exemplary. Consequently many came to liken the Second Concerto Op. 16 even more than the over popular Third. (The Second had actually been revised by Prokofiev in the period when he wrote his most famous Third Piano Concerto Op. 26.)
The recording made in Cincinnati's Music Hall was supervised by Laszlo Halasz and the engineer was Robert E. Blake, and Irving Kolodin wrote the liner notes for the release.
(Bolet's later recording with the Nürnberg Symphony Orchestra and conductor Ainslee Cox did not meet the same balance and intensity.) - R.A.B.


The cover of Remington R-199-182: Jorge Bolet, piano, playing Sergey Prokofiev's 2nd Concerto with the Cincinnati Symphony conducted by Thor Johnson. The recording was made in November 1953, and released one year later in the fall of 1954.

Click here for a Sound Clip from the 4th movement.

Jorge Bolet (born in Havana, Cuba, on November 15, 1914) had studied under Josef Hofmann and Leopold Godowsky when he attended the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia from 1927 till 1935. He had appeared as a soloist with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra under Fritz Reiner in Carnegie Hall, and had toured in Europe with success. However for long he did not have the chance to really break through. One reason for his late start was World War II. His biography states that he was sent to the USA by the Cuban government as an assistant military attaché at the Cuban Embassy in Washington, but in 1942 he resigned and enlisted in the US Army which took him all the way to Japan where he entertained the troops. (He led a performance of Gilbert & Sullivan's 'The Mikado'!)

After World War Two Jorge Bolet concertized again. His booking ads tell that he appeared with the important orchestras in the United States and also in Europe, and that he received much recognition. He did not yet make a name as a recording artist, not in the late nineteen forties that is. His name cannot be found in the 'Gramophone Shop Encyclopedia of Recorded Music' from 1948. And Irving Kolodin does not mention Bolet in his "The New Guide To Recorded Music", published in 1950.
 Bolet's first recordings were on LP, and for the Boston label which introduced its first releases in December 1952. The company was based in Boston. (The label existed until 1966.)

Boston B 300 has the title "Airs of Spain" and entails compositions by Isaac Albeniz (Prelude, Malagueña, Cordoba); Manuel de Falla (Andaluza, Cubana); Ernesto Lecuona (Y La Negra Bailaba, Danza De Los Nanigos); and Enrique Granados (Playera). This release was announced in the Schwann Long Playing Record Catalog of December 1952. In an advertisement this release was by mistake also listed as B 301.
On Boston B 301 Bolet plays "Favorites": by Camille Saint-Saens (Etude in the Form of a Waltz / en forme de Valse), Moritz Moszkowski (Autumn), Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (Hunting Song, Rondo Capriccioso), Franz Liszt (Funérailles), and Ludwig van Beethoven (Andante).


These recordings of the thirty nine year old artist and the many appearances in concert halls may well have been noticed by Don Gabor and Laszlo Halasz and in the Summer of 1953 it was officially announced that Jorge Bolet was added to Remington's artist roster.

Remington R-199-161 with The Four Scherzi - A Laszlo Halasz Production.
Cover by Curt John Witt Desogn House.

Bolet's Remington debut was on R-199-161 with the performances of the Four (4) Scherzi (Scherzos) of Chopin - No. 1 in B minor, Op. 20, No. 2 in B Flat minor, Op. 31, No. 3 in C Sharp minor, Op. 39, and No. 4 in E major, Op. 54. Bolet's was a Chopin with a very personal, yet captivating virtuoso-approach, showing energy and strong dynamics. He plays with youthful drive. The sound recording was probably made in the Mastertone Recording Studio n New York. As so many Remingtons the best way to play back this record is to use the variable treble and bass on the amplifier as was done in those days. Here a little bass boost helps to fully enjoy Bolet's performance. The recording was supervised by Laszlo Halasz as the cover clearly indicates 'A Laszlo Halasz Presentation'.

Jorge Bolet at the piano.
(Picture taken from Everest LP SDBR 3062.)

The two Remington recordings put Bolet's artistry on the map of the connoisseur, but seven years later his performances for the soundtrack of the biopic about the life of Franz Liszt, 'Song Without End', brought him much wider recognition and resulted in several recordings for the Everest label, followed later with a few recordings for RCA Victor.

Yet Bolet's great fame came in the late nineteen seventies when he was contracted by English Decca (London, USA). This resulted in the series of recordings of works by Liszt, of several concertos (Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Schumann and Grieg), and of solo pieces by Brahms, Debussy and Reger.
Very enlightening was his in-depth master class of Rachmaninoff's 3rd Concerto for BBC-television entitled 'Bolet Meets Rachmaninoff' (1983), at the time when he recorded Rachmaninoff's Op. 30 for Decca with Ivan Fischer (SXDL 7609).

The liner notes on Remington R-199-182 read:


Jorge Bolet was born in Havana, Cuba. He received his early training at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. Returning to the USA after his European tour he won the coveted Naumburg and Joseph Hofmann Awards.
Following his debut with the New York Symphony under Mitropoulos, which the press hailed as "the most outstanding concerto reading of the season", he made equally successful appearances with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood.
He has since toured extensively in North America and Central and South Americas.
On the West Coast, the noted critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, Albert Frankenstein, summed up the 1952-53 season with, "Of all the soloists who appeared here during this season the ones we most would like to have return are Serkin and Bolet." - and Gerald Ashford of the San Antonio Express writes, "There are but few great pianists living today, and Bolet is sure one of them." The Baldwin Piano Company has awarded Jorge Bolet a special concert grand that travels in a custom build trailer to all his engagements.

The concert grand piano that accompanied Jorge Bolet his entire life was a Baldwin SD-10.l

Regrettably Jorge Bolet only made two recordings for the Remington-catalogue. There certainly would have been room for transcriptions by Liszt or a concerto if there had not been the historic performances of Liszt by Simon Barere and the recordings by Edward Kilenyi already available on Remington.

The recording of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16, with the Cincinnati Symphony and conductor Thor Johnson was re-released in 1974 on Turnabout TV-S34543 in electronic stereo (coupled with Prokofiev's 5th Concerto played by Alfred Brendel and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra conducted by Jonathan Sternberg). The engineers did a fine job, but of course the recording lacks the impetus of the original. The original monaural tapes were licensed from Tapeworld Inc. which was the company of Don Gabor's who then released recordings on cassette tapes.

Jorge Bolet was born on November 15th, 1914, in Havana, Cuba. He died October 16th, 1990, in Mountain View, California, USA.
In 1998 his performances of Liszt's "Liebesträume" were heard in the soundtrack of the movie "A la place du coeur" (1998).

 

)* "Thor Johnson - American Conductor" written by Louis Nicholas and published in 1982 by The Music Festival Committee of the Peninsula Arts Association, Ephraim, Wisconsin.

)** As recounted by Hamish Pitceathly of Great Britain.

Rudolf A. Bruil - Page first published in the fall of 2002.


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