Sunday, 9 June 2013

Illustrated Discography of Jorge Bolet: The Early Years (1952-74)

Illustrated Discography of Jorge Bolet: 
The Early Years (1952-74)

This is a sad story. Bolet’s recordings from those years of dreadful obscurity are as terrific as they are scanty (not to mention often recorded in poor sound). Besides, one should keep in mind that many of the CDs listed here (no LPs, sorry) may be no longer in print, and second-hand copies may be appallingly expensive. No lengthy introductory rambling this time; the layout, such as it is, follows the one from the second part of this discography. Let’s get down to business right away.

Audio Recordings
1952-53, Chopin, Prokofiev, etc. (Boston & Remington)
These four LPs have only recently been released on CD for the first time by Appian as Jorge Bolet: His Earliest Recordings. The mono sound leaves a good deal to be desired, but the performances are superb. The repertoire covered contains much that Jorge never re-recorded commercially later (e.g. Chopin’s four scherzi [No. 1], though some live recordings have been preserved; see Marston’s edition below [Nos. 1-4]), in some cases there are not even live recordings available (e.g. the whole Spanish Airs album). The booklet contains excellent essays by Farhan Malik and three rare portraits of Bolet in his dashing prime reproduced full-page and in excellent quality. Cf. Funerailles for RCA (1972, see below) and for Decca (1982, see the second part of this discography). 

1960, Song Without End, soundtrack.
The several solo piano pieces Jorge recorded for this album are supposed to have been good for him, popularity-wise, but they certainly brought neither lucrative recording contracts nor heavy concert schedules. The soundtrack is available on CD and is worth having only for die-hard Bolet fans. The movie itself is a cheesy melodrama trying to capitalize on Liszt’s ever-fresh notoriety as a womanizer. Dirk Bogarde is a preposterous choice for the role of Liszt, not least because of his atrocious miming at the keyboard. Worth seeing as a most hilarious, if unintentionally so, piece of hackwork.

1960-61, Belock Recording Studio, Bayside, Queens, NY (Everest)
Liszt: Mephisto Waltz No. 1, Sonata in B minor, Piano Concerto No. 1 and Hungarian Fantasy (Symphony of the Air, Robert Irving)
There is an old budget price re-issue by Price-Less, too. The Sonata and the Waltz also available on Alto together with the 1979 recordings of both concerti for VOX (Rochester Philharmonic, Zinman). Cf. the Sonata (1982), the Waltz (1982) and the Fantasy (1984) recorded for Decca. See the second part of this discography. All solo Liszt recordings for Everest, including an obscure take on Funeiralles, are available as CD-R on demand on Amazon

1961, Belock Recording Studio, Bayside, Queens, NY (Everest)
A Chopin Recital
Priceless early Chopin recording; not cheap, but not offered at the exorbitant prices it used to be. Includes some pieces never re-recorded later by Bolet, such as the Polonaises Opp. 40 No. 1 and 53 as well as the Fantaisie-Impromptu, Op. 66. Miserable TT (41:44). A CD-R on demand is also available on Amazon.

1961-82, The Berlin Radio Recordings, Vols. 1, 2 & 3 
(Audite, 7 CD)
Priceless stuff. All recordings never released before, all remastered from the original tapes. Who knew Jorge had made so many radio recordings in Berlin? A great deal of new material to his discography, including staples like the Chopin Etudes Op. 25 (1968) and Beethoven's Fifth Concerto (1974), neglected curiosities like Schumann's Third Sonata (1963) and fantastic rarities like the Second Sonata by Norman Dello Joio (who?!) (1963). Notable "repetitions" include the first six pieces from the "Swiss Year" (1963), the Spanish Rhapsody (1964) and the two concerti of Liszt (1971, 1982), Chopin's Opp. 22, 40/1, 49, 53 and 66, 8 preludes by Debussy (1966) and plenty of others. Pricey sets but worth every cent you care to spend on them. Handsome presentation too, in lavishly illustrated digipaks and with fine liner notes by Wolfgang Rathert who, unlike the Marston fellows, resists the temptation of bashing the Decca recordings. All booklets available online for free: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3.

1963-85, Jorge Bolet in Concert, vol. 1: Frederic Chopin (Marston)
Priceless selection of live recordings. Tracks listing and liner notes available online. Many repertoire highlights hardly available otherwise with Jorge, for example a magisterial Third Sonata from 1985, stunning four scherzi from 1973 (cf. the 1953 studio versions for Remington), and an exhilarating Andante spianato and Polonaise brillante (1972).

1939-89, Jorge Bolet, Volume 2: Ambassador from the Golden Age: A Connoisseur's Selection for the Bolet Centenial (Marston, 6 CD)
The title is ponderous, the set is hard-to-find and expensive - but very much worth searching and paying for. Comprehensive selection of live recordings that spans 50 years and consists virtually completely of previously unreleased material. Plenty of new pieces to Bolet's discography by Brahms, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Grieg, Chasins, Godowsky and others. Tracklisting and liner notes are available online. Ignore the customary panning of Bolet's studio recordings  and enjoy the performances.

1968, Casino del l'Aliança del Poblenou, Barcelona
Tchaikovsky: Piano Trio (Victor Martin, violin; Marco Scano, cello) (Ensayo)

1969, Casino del l'Aliança del Poblenou, Barcelona
Liszt: Paraphrases (Ensayo)
Six of the ten pieces included as bonus tracks to the 1969 live recording of Rachmaninoff’s Third Concerto as issued by Palexa; on the cover they are wrongly dated as “1970” (see below). The Lucia paraphrase also included in vol. 10 of the Great Pianists of the 20th Century series, together with the 1973 Rachmaninoff LP and the famous 1974 Carnegie Hall recital; on the cover it is inexplicably stated “rec. date unknown” (see below). Only 4/10 of this album later re-recorded for Decca (see the second part of this discography).

1969, Indiana University (Live)
Rachmaninoff: Concerto No. 3 (Indiana University Symphony Orchestra, unknown conductor) (Palexa) + Liszt’s transcriptions and paraphrases (Ensayo, 1969)
Blistering rendition! An absolute must for every Bolet fan. Cf. the vastly different and much more subdued 1982 studio recording for Decca; see the second part of this discography.

This recording of Rachmaninoff's Third Concerto has also been released (in 1995, I think) on CD by the Indiana University, together with some exceedingly rare live recordings from 1970s. Unfortunately, the CD is virtually unobtainable.

1970, Casino del l'Aliança del Poblenou, Barcelona
Liszt: Transcendental Studies (Ensayo)

1972-73, RCA Studio A, New York City, USA
Bolet reDiscovered: Liszt Recital

1973-74, Carnegie Hall (25/2/1974, Live) and RCA Studios (7/1973), New York
Carnegie Hall Recital + Rachmaninoff transcriptions (Philips, 2 CD)
The Lucia paraphrase, strangely credited with “rec. date unknown”, is from the 1969 Ensayo LP with transcriptions and paraphrases (see above). For a review, see here.

Highly abridged version of the Carnegie Hall recital has been released on CD by RCA as well.

1972, Sgambati: Piano Concerto, Op. 15

1972, Prokofieff: Concertos Nos. 2 & 3 
(Nuremberg Symphony, Ainslee Cox) (Genesis)

1958-1974, Complete RCA and CBS recordings (10 CD)
Contains the so-far-unavailable on CD first recording of the Transcendental Studies (1958, only 9 out 12), the Ensayo solo piano recordings from 1969-70, the 1974 Carnegie Hall Recital, the 1973 album with Rachmaninoff transcriptions, the "Bolet reDiscovered" recital, and chamber rarities from Franck, Wolff and Chausson. Magnificent collection of Bolet in his prime. See Hank's review.

Video Recordings

Commercially Released

The Grand Galop chromatique is available on YT. I am glad it is just as slow as the late recording for Decca. Because 1) it gives the lie to the old chestnut how much slower Bolet became in his late years; and 2) this is the perfect tempo to get the most fun from this charming and so often butchered piece.

Unreleased Rarities

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