Cuban-American pianist Jorge Bolet (1914-1990), misleadingly labeled the "last Romantic" among 20th century pianists and marketed under this title when he achieved world fame at the end of his career, was first and foremost a gentleman of the piano. Few pianists interpreted the great piano music of the 19th and early 20th centuries with such unerring stylistic assurance and technical mastery that was at the same time completely free of vanity and striving for effect. Rather than vague sentimentality, Bolet - who studied at the world-renowned Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with David Saperton, son-in-law of the legendary pianist Leopold Godowsky, and later succeeded Rudolf Serkin as director of ist piano department -Read more sought a balance between musical and pianistic intelligence. Thanks to these qualities, his recordings, which include not-uncontroversial transcriptions from the golden age of piano playing before 1914, are considered benchmarks.
These recordings for the RIAS Berlin from 1962-73, featuring works by Chopin, Liszt, and Debussy along with highly virtuosic encores and arrangements by Moritz Moszkowski and Godowsky (among others), are no exception: here we experience a pianist and musician who rightly occupies a place among the pantheon of great pianists.
All the recordings in this three-CD box set are first releases from the master tapes.
Almost everything by Bolet is worth acquiring, but this collection is particularly valuable. Few pianophiles will be aware of the existence of these radio broadcasts from the early 1960s.
Disc 1 opens up with Bolet on top form, including an intense account of Vallee d'Obermnann that ends more in despairing torment than than rapturous ecstasy.
Disc 2 includes a number of superb accounts of Bolet favorites. The third disc contains a muscular, magisterial rendition of Chopin's F minor Fantasy, most characteristic of this great artist yet by no means devoid of introspection and sensitivity. All four of Chopin's Impromptus are a real joy. The Debussy Preludes selections form a beautifully played sequence of individually defined tone-poems.