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Jorge Bolet (piano) - Volume 2
Ambassador from the Golden Age: A Connoisseur’s Selection for the Bolet Centennial
rec. 1937-1989
Full track-listing below
MARSTON 56003-2 [6 CDs: 475:14]

The second volume in Marston’s tribute to Jorge Bolet appears a decade after the inaugural box set. It was worth the wait. The six discs chart a variety of concerts and locations and span the decades. Some of the music was recorded by admirers via portable cassette players or other devices but the final disc is important too, as we hear Bolet’s earliest known discs, made before the Second World War in Philadelphia. Elsewhere the fruits of recitals given in Amsterdam and New York loom especially large but there are recordings deriving from recitals in Arnhem, Berlin, Cologne, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Edinburgh and a few other places too. Bolet had devoted admirers and many took the opportunity to record him in situ – and a good job, as his commercial discography was not as wide as it could, and arguably should have been.

Each disc has its own particular felicities, and by far the most admirable component of the discs is their expansion of that limited recorded legacy. It’s good to hear Brahms’ Op.117 Intermezzi, though they are somewhat sabotaged by bronchial Amsterdamers. Even better is the 1987 Haydn Sonata in E flat, Hob.XVI:52, very unusual repertoire for him but with no sense of stylistic improbability and with a warm singing tone in the slow movement. The Mendelssohn Fantasy in F sharp minor is impressive: if only there were many more examples of his way with the composer. The Variations sérieuses must have been recorded on hand-held cassette from the shallow but acceptable sound, and this gives it a bit of a ringing tone quality; meanwhile the performance is rhythmically astute. The discs contain two Beethoven sonatas. The Tempest (NYC, 1974) is beautifully voiced if somewhat Olympian, whilst The Farewell (Philadelphia, 1939) receives a reading of youthful brio and virtuoso energy.

A Chopin sequence proves revealing. If the Etude in E minor, Op.25 No.5 is somewhat too static, the F sharp minor Nocturne is beautifully mournful. In live performances, as with most artists, he proves a significantly more expressive and outgoing performer than in the more constrained studio environment. Despite the dry, in-house 1970 NYC sound, Bolet’s hyphenated Liszt recordings are seismic and magnificent whilst the rest of the second disc, devoted to his Liszt in its various forms proves, whatever the source sound quality, very special indeed. Such is also the case in the unstoppable momentum he generates in the Ballade No.2 (Minneapolis, 1985) and in an outstanding Franck Prelude, Aria, and Finale which is a real find. Grieg’s Ballade in G minor is very difficult to put across over its extended span but this is a convincing performance. A solidly voiced, although hardly over-subtle selection of his Debussy finishes the third disc.

A shaky recording doesn’t much impede admiration for the delightful Vořišek Impromptu. His Schubert Impromptu is on the patrician side but that glittering showpiece, Schlözer’s Etude in A flat, receives a performance fully equal to its demands. The set of Rachmaninoff Preludes comes from a 1966 Berlin recital but the searching reading of the Variations on a theme of Chopin – by some margin the longest single piece in the box – was taped in Amsterdam in 1983. It’s pure indulgence to enjoy the two delightful Abram Chasins pieces, not least the pensively lyric Prelude No.14 and the urgently passionate No.15. Disc 5 is given over to Godowsky in transcription and hyphenation. That’s only proper, as Bolet studied with David Saperton, Godowsky’s son-in-law and was indeed coached by Godowsky. One technically imperious performance follows another, Bolet extracting colour and nuance in the transcriptions of Rameau and Schubert, Bizet and Saint-Saëns, whilst he applies himself to the rigours of the Chopin-Godowsky Studies, not least those for the left hand, with powerful concentration and finesse. But the sixth and final disc is perhaps even more remarkable. Not only does it delve back to the late 1930s, it also includes Lira Panamericana transcription discs from 1944. One of the latter is the Bach Toccata in D, BWV912 where this authentic Romantic virtuoso shows listeners just how commanding he could be in Bach when given the opportunity. The box ends with a truly unforgettable, overwhelming performance of the Wagner-Liszt Tannhäuser Overture, made in April 1989 in New York.

It is a fitting end – grandiloquent, tonally luminous, and digitally superb – to this remarkable box, which has been lovingly compiled, transferred, and annotated.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank (Recording of the Month)

CD 1 [78:16]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Three Intermezzi, Op. 117
1. No. 1 in E flat [4:52]
2. No. 2 in B flat Minor [4:42]
3. No. 3 in C sharp Minor [5:15]
11 December 1983, Amsterdam
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Sonata No. 62 in E flat, Hob. XVI/52
4. I Allegro Moderato [6:51]
5. II Adagio [5:59]
6. III Finale: Presto [4:19]
22 February 1987, Amsterdam
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Fantasy in F sharp Minor, Op. 28
7. I Con moto agitato [6:02]
8. II Allegro con moto [2:46]
9. III Presto [4:59]
27 December 1981, San Francisco
10. Variations sérieuses, Op. 54 [12:32 ]
27 October 1974, New York City
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Sonata No. 17 in D Minor, Op. 31, No. 2, “Tempest”
11. I Allegro [6:14]
12. II Adagio [8:22]
13. III Allegretto [5:24]
7 April 1974, New York City

CD 2 [79:50]
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
1. Fantasy in F Minor, Op. 49 [13:04]
7 April 1974, New York City
2. Etude in E Minor, Op. 25, No. 5 [3:40]
22 February 1987, Amsterdam
3. Waltz in D flat, Op. 64, No. 1, “Minute” [2:00]
22 February 1987, Amsterdam
4. Waltz in E Minor, Op. Posth. [3:06]
2 February 1984, New York City
5. Nocturne in F sharp Minor, Op. 48, No. 2 [9:26]
12 March 1985, Philadelphia
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)/Franz LISZT (1811-1886) 
6. Réminiscences de Lucia di Lammermoor, S. 397 [6:20]
3 October 1970, New York City
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)/Franz LISZT
7. Rigoletto: Concert paraphrase, S. 434 [7:05]
3 October 1970, New York City
8. Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12, S. 244 [10:41]
27 October 1974, New York City
9. Venezia e Napoli: Gondoliera, S. 162, No. 1 [5:06]
11 December 1983, Amsterdam
10. Venezia e Napoli: Tarantella, S. 162, No. 3 [9:34]
11 December 1983, Amsterdam
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)/Franz LISZT
11. Spinnerlied aus Der fliegende Holländer, S. 440 [5:14]
11 November 1971, New York City
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)/Franz LISZT
12. Widmung, S. 566 [3:50]
11 November 1971, New York City

CD 3 [79:06]
1. Ballade No. 2 in B Minor, S. 171 [15:14]
3 November 1985, Minneapolis
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Prelude, Aria, and Finale
2. Prelude [10:06]
3. Aria [6:23]
4. Finale [7:35]
26 May 1974, Arnhem, The Netherlands
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
5. Ballade in G Minor, Op. 24 [19:46]
22 February 1987, Amsterdam
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
6. Danseuses de Delphes (No. 1 from Préludes, Book I) [3:41]
7. La sérénade interrompue (No. 9 from Préludes, Book I) [2:22]
8. La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune (No. 7 from Préludes, Book II) [4:54]
9. Feux d’artifice (No. 12 from Préludes, Book II) [4:06]
7 April 1974, New York City
10. Clair de lune (No. 3 from Suite Bergamasque) [5:00]
1980 private recording; Baldwin LP BDW 701

CD 4 [79:55]
Jan Václav Hugo VOŘÍŠEK (1791-1825)
1. Impromptu in E, Op. 7, No. 5 [4:55]
8 March 1975, New York City
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
2. Impromptu in G flat, Op. 90 (D. 899), No. 3 [7:14]
2 October 1988, Carmel, California
Paul de SCHLOZER (1841-1898)
3. Etude in A flat, Op. 1, No. 2 [3:14]
26 May 1974, Arnhem, The Netherlands
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1875-1943)
4. Prelude in G flat, Op. 23, No. 10 [3:34]
5. Prelude in F Minor, Op. 32, No. 6 [1:25]
6. Prelude in F, Op. 32, No. 7 [2:32]
7. Prelude in G sharp Minor, Op. 32, No. 12 [2:33]
6 January 1966, Berlin
8. Variations on a theme of Chopin, Op. 22 [30:03]
11 December 1983, Amsterdam
9. Polka de V.R. [4:46]
23 February 1974, Amsterdam
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)/Sergei RACHMANINOV
10. Lullaby [4:09]
15 March 1978, Philadelphia
Abram CHASINS (1903-1987)
11. Prelude No. 14 in E flat Minor, Op. 12, No. 2 [2:18]
7 December 1987, Bonn
12. Prelude No. 15 in B flat Minor, Op. 12, No. 3 [1:27]
7 December 1987, Bonn
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)/Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)
13. Invitation to the Dance, Op. 65 [11:47]
25 August 1980, Edinburgh

CD 5 [79:56]
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)/Leopold GODOWSKY
1. Minuet in A Minor (No. 3 from Renaissance) [5:15]
18 January 1980, Atlanta
2. Rosamunde: Ballet Music [3:03]
11 December 1983, Amsterdam
3. Moment Musical, Op. 94 (D. 780), No. 3 [2:10]
14 February 1978, Philadelphia (Intimate gathering)
Frédéric CHOPIN/Leopold GODOWSKY
4. Study No. 25 (after Op. 25, No. 1) [3:42]
10 October 1976, Amsterdam
5. Study No. 5 (after Op. 10, No. 3, for the left hand) [6:14]
15 March 1979, Philadelphia
6. Study No. 7 (after Op. 10, No. 5) [1:57]
10 October 1976, Amsterdam
7. Study No. 12 (after Op. 10, No. 5) 2:09 8. Study No. 13 (after Op. 10, No. 6, for the left hand) [4:22]
11 December 1983, Amsterdam
9. Study No. 15 (after Op. 10, No. 7) 4:30 10. Study No. 1 (after Op. 10, No. 1) [2:16]
15 March 1979, Philadelphia
11. Waltz in D flat, Op. 64, No. 1, “Minute” [2:30]
1965, Berlin
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-189)/Leopold GODOWSKY
12. Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes from Die Fledermaus [10:09]
17 May 1973, Köln
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)/Leopold GODOWSKY
13. Ständchen, Op. 17, No. 2 [3:05]
18 April 1980, New York City
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)/Leopold GODOWSKY
14. The Swan (from Carnival of the Animals) [2:53]
26 May 1974, Arnhem, The Netherlands
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)/Leopold GODOWSKY
15. Adagietto (from L’Arlésienne, Suite No. 1) [2:49]
22 February 1987, Amsterdam
Isaac ALBENIZ (1860-1909)/Leopold GODOWSKY
16. Tango in D, Op. 165, No. 2 [3:58]
15 March 1979, Philadelphia
17. Elegy (for the left hand) [3:12]
19 July 1982, College Park, Maryland
18. The Gardens of Buitenzorg (No. 8 from Java Suite) [4:43 ]
28 November 1983, Milan
19. The Salon (No. 21 from Triakontameron) [3:00]
7 April 1974, New York City
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)
20. Caprice Espagnole, Op. 37 [6:01 ]
16 March 1961, Köln
21. La Jongleuse, Op. 52, No. 4 [1:58]
26 May 1974, Arnhem, The Netherlands

CD 6 [78:11]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
1. Toccata in D, BWV 912 [11:03]
1944, location unknown; Lira Panamericana transcription disc
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
2. Rondo in D, K. 485 [5:20]
1944, location unknown; Lira Panamericana transcription disc
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Sonata No. 26 in E flat, Op. 81a, “Lebewohl”
3. I Das Lebewohl: Adagio—Allegro [6:40]
4. II Abwesenheit: Andante espressivo [3:49]
5. III Das Wiedersehen: Vivacissimamente [3:58]
30 October 1939, Philadelphia
6. Prelude in E flat, Op. 23, No. 6 [2:43]
20 October 1937, Philadelphia
7. Schwanda Fantasy (after Weinberger) [6:58]
1944, location unknown; Lira Panamericana transcription disc
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART/Franz LISZT
8. Réminiscences de Don Juan, S. 418 [18:43]
9 November 1975, New York City
Richard WAGNER/Franz LISZT
9. Tannhäuser: Overture, S. 442 [18:28]
16 April 1989, New York City



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