Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Jorge Bolet, Liszt, Bellini|
Great Pianists 11
Listen to Samples
Late (and ponderous) Bolet in this second set
C. Pinheiro Jr. | São Paulo, Brazil | 01/20/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Philips' set n. 2 dedicated to Jorge Bolet is markedly less attractive than its first instalment on the Cuban-American pianist. The selection in this second item includes recordings made in the 1978-1988 period, the latter part of Bolet's career (he died in 1990), when his playing became increasingly weighty, reflective and measured. The problem here is that, while the afore-mentioned characteristics may be welcome in some works by Beethoven and Brahms, they are hardly what is required for convincing performances of Liszt, the sole composer focused in this set.
The reasons behind Bolet's transformation from a stunning virtuoso in the grand romantic tradition into what the critic Bryce Morrison once referred to as "the tired old man of Decca fame" (the label which released the pianist's late efforts) are moot, but there is no gainsaying the change. Granted, most instrumentalists lose part of their energy with age - a question of agility for one thing - but in Bolet's case this process seemed to involve an odd mixture of brooding inwardness and self-imposed restraint, almost as an atonement. Some people even contend that he wanted to go down in history as a profound artist and, while trying to be deep, he just managed to get boring. Whatever the case, one has only to compare Bolet's 1982 version of the Mephisto Waltz n. 1 shown here with his 1961 rendition to notice the phenomenon: the fiery, virtuosic and propulsive handling of the piece in that earlier attempt gave way to an approach which the liner comment elegantly describes as "philosophical rather than dashing", naturally to the detriment of the work's impact. All the notes are perfectly articulated, there is not a harsh sound throughout (Bolet's golden tone never deserted him, nor his ability to produce big sonorities without banging), and yet the result is surprisingly lifeless. The same applies to Funerailles, La leggierezza, Gnomenreigen and La campanella, which are beautifully organized but devoid of a much-needed sparkle.
Many pieces by Liszt require a certain amount of excess to make them work, not only technical - a true virtuoso mechanism - but also spiritual, in the sense of a devil-may-care interpretative attitude, or the so-called bravura. Nowhere is this element more sadly lacking than in Bolet's Don Juan Fantasy. Rather than relishing the technical intricacies and virtuosic exuberance of this magnificent knucklebreaker - in my opinion, the only effective approach to this work - Bolet parades the piece, in an unhurried and deliberate fashion, taking nearly nineteen minutes in his pensive traversal (one of the longest on record). He eschews all excitement and concentrates on clarity and smoothness instead, and it simply doesn't work: listening through becomes an ordeal, especially if you are acquainted with the versions by Simon Barere, Earl Wild and Marc-Andre Hamelin.
It's really a great pity that Philips couldn't offer us examples of the early Bolet, a spectacular pianist who not only had "the fingers of a Horowitz and the tone of a Lhevinne" (Harold Schonberg) but who also often infused his performances with fire and passion. All the above notwithstanding, I can still recommend this set for Bolet's beautiful tone, precise fingerwork and unerring good taste.
THE 1 Liszt CD to own for sure
Feral Puma | Northern California, USA | 09/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I own a few Liszt CDs, the concerto & sonata & misc piano pieces, etc. and they're all good don't get me wrong, but this CD is absolutely stunning. After listening to this, I have a brand new appreciation for Liszt the exceptional musical artist who wrote close to impossible pieces to play. And Jorge Bolet is to Liszt what Glenn Gould is to Bach, need I say more than said ?"