Music and Vision homepage

CD Spotlight

Poetic best

Jorge Bolet's rediscovered Liszt recital -

'... a white-hot listening experience.'

Bolet - A Rediscovered Liszt Recital (c) BMG Classics


Vol 2 in Philips' Great Pianists series devoted to Jorge Bolet (CD 456 814-2) included Liszt works the Cuban-born pianist recorded between 1975 and 1978, a period somewhat before his final recorded output in the 1980s, which had been notable for its particularly leisurely and even histrionically phlegmatic tempos. The deliberateness of those later years is seldom to be heard in the present program, which is entitled a 'Rediscovered Liszt Recital', the tapes of which had been forgotten and were recently uncovered by the album's producer, Jon Samuels.

It seems that in 1972, Bolet had been asked to record material for an all-Liszt two-LP set but had never finished the project. Around 1960, he had already made a single disc's worth of Transcendental Etudes for RCA Victor (LM-2291), a fine example of the earlier Bolet both at his blazing and poetic best, and many of the same features are prominent on this new release. If the piano reproduction, slightly thin in the treble, does not compare in singing tone and sonic depth with the richness heard on Bolet's later Decca/London discs, it still is clean and certainly serviceable.

The pianist's selection in part is repertoire that he was to record again, often several times, such as his Liebestraum, Gnomereigen, and La Campanella, and, though sometimes measured, one still hears romantic temperament and even digital storming supplementing his gorgeous tone. Technically -- read fireworks -- one cannot help but enjoy his playful and rousing Grand Galop chromatique, the ominous tension of the galloping horses in the Funerailles, and the riveting excitement of the Spanish Rhapsody, a work he never made commercially (a live version was once available on Opus 81).

But there is more. On July 16, 1973, following a session devoted in part to Rachmaninoff, Bolet did a one-take run-through of the Wagner-Liszt Tannhäuser Overture, an astounding performance that, after an imposingly broad start, turns into a white-hot listening experience. That, to my mind, is the most extraordinary thing about this unique disc which, I believe, any lover of great pianism owes it to himself to hear.

It might be mentioned, incidentally, that a live Tannhäuser also was included on Bolet's 25th February, 1974, Carnegie Hall program, originally issued by RCA Victor (RCA ARL 2 0512, CD version) and now available as Volume I of Philips's Bolet recordings (456 724-2). My colleague, Frank Cooper, informs me that the greatest Bolet performance he had ever heard of this, one of the pianist's signature pieces, had been performed in Hilversum during the summer, 1974. Perhaps one day some enterprising company will be able to issue the Radio Netherlands tape of that concert.

Copyright © 22 September 2001 Igor Kipnis, West Redding, CT, USA



CD INFORMATION - BMG 09026-63748-2




 << Music & Vision home      Recent reviews       Schubert >>