MENDELSSOHN Rondo capriccioso. Lied ohne Worte: Jägerlied. CHOPIN Nocturnes: No. 2; No. 5. Waltzes: No. 6; No. 15. Etudes, op. 25/1,2,11. DEBUSSY Préludes, Book I: La fille aux chevaux de lin.Read moreSCHUBERT-GODOWSKY Rosamunde: Ballet Music. ALBÉNIZ-GODOWSKY Tango, op. 65/2. GODOWSKY Elégie. R. STRAUSS-GODOWSKY Ständchen. BIZET-GODOWSKY L’arlésienne. MOSZKOWSKI Characteristic Pieces: En automne. Etudes: Jongleuse. SCHLÖZER Etude, op. 1/2
This is music in which Jorge Bolet absolutely excelled. Right from the notes that open the Mendelssohn Rondo capriccioso, it is clear he loves every moment of this recital of music that is evidently very close to his heart. The cantabile touch is spot on, tender and intimate; the cheek of the Rondo is perfectly judged. The ensuing “Jägerlied” is hunting of the most enchanted kind, infused with the spirit of Midsummer Night’s Dream.
That Bolet captures the half-lights of both Chopin nocturnes is testimony to his expressive range. Bolet is unapologetic about injecting a sense of distancing, of nostalgia in the delightful waltzes, which in context makes his readings all the more charming. I heard Bolet encore the Etude, op. 25/1, in London once, and the present recording holds some of his magic. Subsidiary, contained inner lines have a life all of their own. The F-Minor (No. 2) is a model of fluidity, while the more extended A-Minor (No. 11) is pure Bolet territory. Again, I heard him encore the latter live, and there was the same sense of expectancy to the simple opening statements, a sense of pregnancy that was burst by the ensuing explosion of virtuosity. Perhaps the bursting of the bubble was more unbuttoned live, less studio-restrained, but this remains a splendid document, testament to Bolet’s mastery.
Interestingly, the Debussy Prélude is an intimate delight, and yet the disc of 16 préludes in this series (480 1131, reviewed elsewhere) was, overall, a disappointment. More delightful still, though, is the Schubert-Godowsky Rosamunde piece, followed by the sultry, seductive Albéniz Tango.
Nice to see some “pure” Godowsky, the Elégie for the left hand, written in Paris in 1929. It is simply beautifully played and, as far as I can see, appears to be the only currently available version of this work in the catalog. The Richard Strauss Ständchen in the Godowsky arrangement, though, was the one track that every time I was listening to the disc, I had to play again straight away. Here is true beauty, not just in terms of expression but also in the honeyed, conspiratorial sound that Bolet draws from his instrument. Moszkowski, who many may know via Horowitz’s “Etincelles” is represented by “En automne” (from the same set of Characteristic Pieces as “Etincelles”), with its swirling figures possibly representing the movement of fallen leaves in the wind, and the rather spikier “Jongleuse.” Bolet is right up there with his main rivals in this piece, Rachmaninoff, Levitski, and Josef Hofmann. The final piece on this collection is a mystery. Paul de Schlözer (1841–1898) is something of an enigma, but his Etude is pure Bolet fodder. Its gemütlich harmonies and easy figuration (“easy” as in nonchalantly delivered, and certainly not “easy” as in easy to play) provide the perfect close to the disc.
Bolet referred to the encores he regularly played as “witty and entertaining extensions of the virtuosity implicit in the great Romantics.” In Bolet’s era, there was surely no other exponent to touch him, and we should consider ourselves lucky that this document is here to remind us.