Episode 177: Great Chopinists: Jorge Bolet

Prelude in G minor, Op. 28, No. 22; Nocturne in E-flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2

rc-bolet-200“He spins iridescent webs of pianistic gold, cadenzas in colored sprays alight from the keyboard. His digital skills are prodigious, and he is capable of great tonal refinements.”

Author David Dubal spins those notes of praise for Cuban-born pianist Jorge Bolet. Bolet was a born pianist, to the point that he was packed off from his native Havana at the age of twelve to study at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.It was there he fell under the spell of pianist David Saperton, and his famous father-in-law, Leopold Godowsky. Forever after, Bolet was one of the concert champions of Godowsky’s crowd-pleasing – and knuckle-busting arrangements of Chopin.

Bolet was gifted with great, massive hands – “all flesh and no bone” was how he described them – ideal for the technical challenge of playing Chopin, Godowsky, or Franz Liszt, another one of his specialities. In fact, that’s Bolet’s playing you hear in the 1960 Liszt biopic Song Without End.

Well, despite his years of concertizing, Bolet’s recording career didn’t take off until he was in his 60s. His recording of Chopin’s 28 Preludes won particular raves: “Jorge Bolet's aristocratic refinement and cultivated, deep-in-the-keys sonority resonate with gentle yet indisputable authority,” said Classics Today. In concert, Bolet made a habit of playing luminous Chopin encores.

And despite his large physique and imposing presence, Bolet was introverted and private, apparently consumed by deep thoughts. He often said, “I am Chopinesque.” And he proved it in his playing of Chopin’s music.

Jorge Bolet: A great – albeit late-blooming – Chopinist. - Frank Dominguez

Radio Chopin Episode 177: Great Chopinists: Jorge Bolet

Prelude in G minor, Op. 28, No. 22

Nocturne in E-flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2