Jorge Bolet

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jorge Bolet

Jorge Bolet (born November 15, 1914 in Havana , Cuba , † October 16, 1990 in Mountain View , California , USA ) was a Cuban pianist with American citizenship.


At the age of 12, Jorge Bolet received a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia , where he studied piano with David Saperton and his teacher and father-in-law Leopold Godowsky and conducting with Fritz Reiner from 1927 to 1934. In 1935, on the advice of the Cuban government, he continued his studies with Moriz Rosenthal in Europe, but Bolet considered these studies to be useless. In 1937 he briefly studied with Rudolf Serkin at the Curtis Institute, and he also won the Naumburg Award . 1939-42 he was Serkin's assistant at the Curtis Institute.

Bolet's career began unsteadily, as his virtuoso piano playing of the 1940s and 1950s was rather unanimously rejected by US critics. The American music critic Harold C. Schonberg states in his standard work The Great Pianists : "It was actually too great a technique, so comprehensive that Bolet was branded as a key magician without much style and substance ... His style was completely out of fashion." During the Second World War he pursued a diplomatic career, from 1939-42 he was a lieutenant cultural attaché for Cuba at the Cuban embassy in Washington. In 1942 he took on the US citizenship and was u. a. musical director of the American headquarters in Tokyo, where he conducted the Japanese premiere of the operetta The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan .

After the war he perfected his studies with the Hofmann student Abram Chasins . At the beginning of the 1950s, in addition to radio and television appearances, the first recordings for the smaller American label Boston Records and Remington took place. a. with the second piano concerto by Sergei Prokofjew , which was rediscovered by Bolet - today's standard work had not been played for 20 years until 1949, when Bolet performed it. In 1960 he made all the piano recordings with works by Liszt for the film about the life of Franz Liszt Song without End (German title: Only a few are chosen ). The film received the 1961 Oscar for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture , which, however, did not go to Bolet, but to those responsible for the music composition, as did the Golden Globe in 1961. Bolet's sound recordings for the film were released as a soundtrack , as well as some Liszt Recitals with the small Everest label , including the first piano concerto , the B minor sonata , the first Mephisto waltz and the 12 Études d'exécution transcendante . Bolet's big break came in 1974 with a recital at Carnegie Hall , which RCA Records recorded and released on records.

Bolet was professor of piano at the Indiana School of Music from 1968-77 . As a result, he succeeded Rudolf Serkin at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, a post he later gave up due to his concert and recording obligations. It was not until 1977, at the age of 63, that Bolet had his first extensive record deal with a large label, Decca / London .

Bolet did not recover from brain surgery in 1989 and died of heart failure in October 1990.

Repertoire and style

Bolet possessed extraordinary dexterity and a "great tone", which made him a specialist in works by Franz Liszt for a long time . His repertoire ranged from Romanticism to Prokofiev . Occasionally he played the most difficult arrangements by Godowski, which he had studied with the composer himself. Virtuoso piano transcriptions by other pianists (e.g. Busoni , Tausig , Schulz-Evler ) were also frequently found in his programs. In an interview with Elyse Mach, Jorge Bolet referred to the "Romantic Piano Concerto" by Joseph Marx , which he repeatedly referred to as his favorite concert because it was one of the few works that did justice to his insatiable desire for great virtuosity. Bolet played the work, the sheet music of which he had discovered in a German antiquarian bookshop, more often in concert from the mid-1970s and in 1982 also in a radio production of the Bavarian Radio with the Symphony Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio under Marek Janowski .

The majority of Bolet's commercial sound recordings spanned the 33 albums he made for Decca at an advanced age. The focus of these late recordings (the most famous of which are a number of Chopin's works and a large selection of the works by Franz Liszt) is Bolet's aristocratic and extremely stylish play full of warmth and sophistication. Bolet was now careful to avoid virtuosity as an end in itself.

"The greatest pianist in the western hemisphere"

- Emil Gilels on Bolet


Unlike most other classical pianists, Bolet often did not play Steinway & Sons instruments. His Decca producer Peter Wadland stated that Bolet constantly used the left pedal and that the tonal difference between Steinway and without this pedal was too great for him. The American piano manufacturer Baldwin had provided him with a touring grand piano including a specially constructed car trailer that his piano tuner could load by himself. In Europe he played on Bechstein grand pianos until 1987 , so most of his Decca recordings were made on a historic EN-280.

Web links


  1. a b c d Albert McGrigor: An Appreciation of Jorge Bolet ( Memento of September 19, 2008 in the Internet Archive ), Marston Records 2004
  2. ^ Schonberg: The Great Pianists, New York 1987, p. 492
  3. ^ "Great Contemporary Pianists Speak for Themselves"; Dover Books on Music
  4. Schonberg: "refined and aristocratic ... with delicate color mixes ... perfectly proportioned", ibid, p. 494
  5. Schonberg: "He is so determined not to be seen as a mere bravura pianist that he sometimes backs off even when he should load the torpedoes" - ibid, p. 494
  6. ( Memento from July 16, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  7. picture at the bottom
  8. Klaus Geitel : About Rubinstein and the Persian Empress. In: The world . July 28, 2001 .;