"Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

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Belle
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"Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

Post by Belle » Fri Mar 02, 2018 9:01 pm

I've stumbled across this today and what Bolet has to say is very interesting. We don't hear a lot about Jorge Bolet today for some reason.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dWF-Nl9U10

John F
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Re: "Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

Post by John F » Sat Mar 03, 2018 1:00 am

Well, Bolet has been dead these 27 years, so there's nothing new to hear about him. He was an impressive and respected pianist, for sure, but inevitably in the shadow of Horowitz, Rubinstein, Richter, Gilels, et al.
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Belle
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Re: "Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

Post by Belle » Sat Mar 03, 2018 1:48 am

I meant that we seldom, if ever, see references to this pianist in works discussed here or recordings valued and collected by our contributors.

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Re: "Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Mar 03, 2018 2:04 am

Long ago NPR had an excellent US version of Desert Island Disk. Hosts were alternately Martin Goldsmith and Robert Aubrey Davis early in their careers. It was first shortened and then alas canceled. There were many fascinating and/or famous guests, most of them not professional musicians. It is amazing how many famous people have wonderful taste in classical music. Aside from that, one thing I remember is that Jonas Salk chose as his luxury item a beautiful woman because "sex is important."

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

maestrob
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Re: "Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

Post by maestrob » Sat Mar 03, 2018 10:52 am

Belle wrote:
Sat Mar 03, 2018 1:48 am
I meant that we seldom, if ever, see references to this pianist in works discussed here or recordings valued and collected by our contributors.
Jorge Bolet was a client of mine when I was managing the clothing store at the NYAC (New York Athletic Club) back in the 1980's. He was then teaching at Curtis and appearing regularly at Carnegie Hall, just a short walk away from the Club, and he would drop in for a new formal shirt for each concert. We bonded, and one day after an appearance with the Clevelanders in Carnegie Hall, he complained bitterly about the conductor, saying he was "unmusical" and other epithets, obviously very upset. The next day, he returned and apologized and asked me not to repeat the story, which I've kept to myself until recently.

Yes, he was gay and he died of AIDS in 1991 or 2. A great musician. His 1974 recital in Carnegie Hall is still one of my favorite memories (issued by RCA). Many of Bolet's recordings have been reissued in bargain boxes by Decca (Liszt) and RCA.

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Re: "Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

Post by Lance » Sat Mar 03, 2018 12:07 pm

I knew about the program "Desert Island Discs," but I have never seen this most delightful discussion with Jorge Bolet. He has long been a favourite pianist of mine and I have collected his recordings religiously over the years. I never had a chance to work for him or to meet him personally as a piano technician. I have about 108 CDs of his work (with some duplication of repertoire in recorded editions). He was a brilliant pianist who seemed to specialize in virtuoso-type works. He certainly had a fabulous technique. As is always interesting to me with regard to pianos used, he was an exclusive Baldwin artist and also played the Bechstein (then under Baldwin's ownership). I heard that he was gay and it is a great pity he died from AIDS as indicated by another post hereon. He was an eloquent speaker on Desert Island Discs (I was not as impressed by my idol, Artur Rubinstein in his Desert Island discussion wherein he apparently used his own recordings for the most part where piano repertoire was concerned, but didn't want that mentioned [!] in the discussion that he was the pianist. So, the loss of Jorge Bolet in the world of piano artistry is a big miss for many of us (as is Rubinstein, Horowitz, Moiseiwitsch, and countless others). Thank you again, Belle, for posting this!
Belle wrote:
Sat Mar 03, 2018 1:48 am
I meant that we seldom, if ever, see references to this pianist in works discussed here or recordings valued and collected by our contributors.
Lance G. Hill
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
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Belle
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Re: "Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

Post by Belle » Sat Mar 03, 2018 4:52 pm

maestrob wrote:
Sat Mar 03, 2018 10:52 am
Belle wrote:
Sat Mar 03, 2018 1:48 am
I meant that we seldom, if ever, see references to this pianist in works discussed here or recordings valued and collected by our contributors.
Jorge Bolet was a client of mine when I was managing the clothing store at the NYAC (New York Athletic Club) back in the 1980's. He was then teaching at Curtis and appearing regularly at Carnegie Hall, just a short walk away from the Club, and he would drop in for a new formal shirt for each concert. We bonded, and one day after an appearance with the Clevelanders in Carnegie Hall, he complained bitterly about the conductor, saying he was "unmusical" and other epithets, obviously very upset. The next day, he returned and apologized and asked me not to repeat the story, which I've kept to myself until recently.

Yes, he was gay and he died of AIDS in 1991 or 2. A great musician. His 1974 recital in Carnegie Hall is still one of my favorite memories (issued by RCA). Many of Bolet's recordings have been reissued in bargain boxes by Decca (Liszt) and RCA.
Wonderful anecdote, and I'd love to know the conductor who was mentioned by Bolet. You were very good to be discreet like that.

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Re: "Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

Post by Lance » Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:02 am

I would be curious who the conductor was, too. Probably that conductor is deceased now, as well.
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Re: "Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

Post by Lance » Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:25 am

AUDITE has issued some Bolet material:

[1] https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com ... _SS500.jpg [Volume 1: 3 CDs, 36 tracks, live RIAS recordings]
[2] https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com ... SX425_.jpg [Volume 2,1 CD, live RIAS recordings
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com ... SX425_.jpg

And, for the record, Marston has issued a number of live-performance recordings on their very interesting label.

The interest in Bolet seems to be very much alive at least in this part of the world. A fabulously gifted pianist whose career got its start largely by making that Everest recording of the soundtrack for the film Song Without End. That really got things rolling for him. Unfortunately, the piano is out of tune in the Everest recordings, which should never be allowed to happen in studio recordings.

"A biographical film about composer Franz Liszt, Song Without End starred Dirk Bogarde in the lead role. The film was originally going to be made in 1952, but for some reason the deal fell through. A second attempt in 1955 also proved fruitless, until finally, in 1958 work began on getting the film out to the public. Originally released in 1960, the film was a major success, with the score winning the Academy Award for Best Music Score. 1. Rakoczy March; 2. Consolation in D Flat; 3. La Campanella; 4. Fantasy on Verdi's Rigoletto; 5. Largo (from 'Xerxes')' 6. Les Preludes (excerpt); 7. Rondo Capriccioso [Mendelssohn]; 8. Pilgrims' Chorus (from Wagner's 'Tannhauser') 9. Liebestraum No. 3' 10. Concerto No. 1 In E Flat; 11. Hungarian Fantasy (medley); 12. Un Sospiro."
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Donald Isler
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Re: "Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

Post by Donald Isler » Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:44 am

I've been enjoying reading everyone's comments about Jorge Bolet so decided to post here an article I wrote awhile ago about my own reevaluation of his playing, and importance.

Isler's Insights

Some Thoughts On Jorge Bolet, and the Superficiality of the Visual Aspect of Concerts

When I was a young adult there were a lot of great pianists on the scene. Horowitz and Rubinstein were both still performing, and I was lucky enough to hear them numerous times. There were other headliners such as Richter, Gilels and Michelangeli, but I never heard them in concert. I regarded two of my teachers, Bruce Hungerford and Constance Keene, with as much esteem as the others, but they were not as well known, and (unfortunately) not giving as many concerts.


Then there were four pianists, each of whom I heard, who were particularly associated with Romantic repertoire, Raymond Lewenthal, Earl Wild, Shura Cherkassky and Jorge Bolet.


Lewenthal was a tempestuous, prickly figure, but, at his best, a staggeringly brilliant performer of extremely difficult music, such as that of Alkan, for which he was particularly renowned. Earl Wild was also a pianist with terrific technical prowess, and a flamboyant performer with a great (and sometimes wicked) sense of humor. The last survivor of this group, he wrote an autobiography entitled “A Walk On the Wild Side” (which I reviewed on September 7th, 2011 for the Classical Music Guide – www.classicalmusicguide.com), in which he told many stories, and settled scores with those of whom he was (understatement!) not fond. Shura Cherkassky was the last pianist for whom I was willing to give up teaching income so as not to miss his concerts. An elfin-like figure, he was a magician, able to play all kinds of music from memory (even Stockhausen!) with elegance, spirit and terrific virtuosity, constantly finding intriguing inner voices, and always playing with a gorgeous tone.


Then there was Jorge Bolet. He was also very good.


That last sentence is an incredible understatement. But that’s what I thought of Bolet in those days.


I heard him in concert four or five times. The first time was at the International Piano Library Benefit Recital at Hunter College (New York) in 1970, which some people view as the “break out” moment of his career, when at last he began to have the recognition and career he deserved. (Would that that had also happened to Bruce Hungerford, who performed then, too, but that’s another discussion.) I heard Bolet give a recital at the 92nd Street Y, which began with the Mendelssohn E Minor Prelude and Fugue, which implanted in my mind the desire to learn it, though that happened many years later. (I also learned the E-Flat Minor Prelude of Abram Chasins when the memory of Bolet’s performance of it had long been lingering in my mind.) And I heard him do a solo program for the Peoples’ Symphony concert series at Washington Irving High School (also in New York) which included either Beethoven’s 30th or 31st sonata, very impressively performed. Indeed, of the three other pianists with whom I mentioned him, I believe he is the only one who could play late Beethoven that well.


Over the last several years I’ve done some reevaluating of my attitude towards Bolet, and realize that, especially in his prime (in the 60’s and 70’s) he was a much greater artist than I gave him credit for. This started with a lecture on Bolet given by Joe Patrych and Jon Samuels, in honor of what would have been Bolet’s 100th birthday, and continued with hearing many more examples of his playing on CD’s and on Youtube.


Bolet had the ability to play convincingly in more kinds of repertoire than many other pianists, he always produced a beautiful sound at the instrument, and he had marvelous technical panache.


So, as they say in French (?!), Nu, so why didn’t I get how great a pianist he was?


In a word, visuals.


Though always elegantly attired for a performance, and dignified in his bearing, he crouched over the piano in what seemed like a tense and uncomfortable posture, which, as a pianist, turned me off a bit. (Indeed, he MAY have been uncomfortable, as Constance Keene said he wore a back brace.) His motions were not elegant, like those of Rubinstein, or Cherkassky. He could play incredibly fast but, as Abram Chasins, a very perceptive man with whom Bolet studied, said, it didn’t LOOK fast, ie wasn’t as visually impressive as I may have (then) liked.


I was imposing my idea of what I’d like to see and forgetting that that should be totally irrelevant when hearing someone else play. The aural result is all that really counts, when evaluating a musician fairly.


And what do I now hear in Jorge Bolet’s playing? A great artist with brilliance, complete musical integrity, poetry, total devotion to his art, and sincerity. I wish I’d figured this out years ago, and made an effort to hear him more often!

Donald Isler
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Re: "Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

Post by maestrob » Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:26 pm

Lance wrote:
Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:02 am
I would be curious who the conductor was, too. Probably that conductor is deceased now, as well.
No, he's still alive. :shock:

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Re: "Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

Post by Belle » Wed Mar 07, 2018 3:40 pm

Donald, I enjoyed and appreciated reading your appraisal of Bolet. Yes, I think the visuals are important and this is a major concern I have with Trifonov - whose posture has become a great concern, not to mention the facial contortions. A deceased friend of mine was a broadcaster on our national FM radio network and he interviewed many great European pianists of the past for a radio series, meeting them in London in the late 90s. He knew a great deal about this and all that intelligence is sadly in some cemetery in Hobart, Tasmania. In fact, Bolet was one of the pianists on my friend's 'greats' list and he used to refer to him many times on his radio programs and to me. My friend was a huge fan of Richter but I've heard many conflicting reports of late about that Russian's playing!!

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Re: "Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

Post by Lance » Wed Mar 07, 2018 7:59 pm

Donald, excellent post on Bolet. We often change our minds about some artist as time moves on. I've had some changes in my mind, for example, about Claudio Arrau, though I still prefer his pianism from the early to his middle life through the 60s. No doubt, a very fine artist in so many ways. So, we rethink our thoughts.
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Re: "Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

Post by Ricordanza » Thu Mar 08, 2018 7:02 am

Lance wrote:
Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:25 am
Originally released in 1960, the film was a major success, with the score winning the Academy Award for Best Music Score.
Interesting. Who accepted the award?

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Re: "Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

Post by Lance » Thu Mar 08, 2018 2:25 pm

I have no idea.
Ricordanza wrote:
Thu Mar 08, 2018 7:02 am
Lance wrote:
Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:25 am
Originally released in 1960, the film was a major success, with the score winning the Academy Award for Best Music Score.
Interesting. Who accepted the award?
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

Donald Isler
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Re: "Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

Post by Donald Isler » Sat Mar 17, 2018 8:57 am

Thank you, Lance and Belle.
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Re: "Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

Post by maestrob » Sat Mar 17, 2018 9:48 am

Donald Isler wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 8:57 am
Thank you, Lance and Belle.
Donald, I just reread your essay on Bolet, and realized I hadn't commented on it. I'm very glad you've revised your opinion upwards based on Bolet's music-making, rather than on his posture. Having seen Bolet in concert often in Carnegie Hall, and having listened to his many recordings on RCA and London and other labels, I must agree with you that he did reach a peak during the 1970's. I missed seeing his famous 1975(?) Carnegie Hall recital (reproduced in the Great Pianists series) due to a conflict with work, but I've often listened to that set (It's one of my favorite piano recordings.) with great pleasure.

Thank you for posting that. I do hope this thread draws our readers to hear Bolet, who was a magnificent musician in his day.

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Re: "Desert Island Discs" 1985, Jorge Bolet

Post by Donald Isler » Wed Mar 21, 2018 9:47 am

Thank you, MaestroB!
Donald Isler

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