Jorge Bolet

15.11.1914 - 16.10.1990


 Jorge Bolet (November 15, 1914–October 16, 1990) was a Cuban pianist, conductor and teacher.

Bolet was born in Havana, Cuba and studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he himself taught from 1939 to 1942. His teachers included Leopold Godowsky, Josef Hofmann, David Saperton, Moriz Rosenthal and Fritz Reiner.

In 1937, he won the Naumburg Competition, and gave his debut recital.In 1942 Bolet joined the US Army and was sent to Japan. While there, he conducted the Japanese premiere of The Mikado. He made his first recordings for Remington. He provided the piano soundtrack for the 1960 film about Liszt, "Song without End". His playing, though, was condemned by American critics for decades, as too focused on romantic virtuosity, so he only made a few recordings for smaller labels in the 1960s. He came to prominence in 1974 with a stupendous recital at Carnegie Hall, which sealed his reputation.

He later became Head of Piano at the Curtis Institute, succeeding Rudolf Serkin, but retired from this to concentrate once again on his career. A measure of Bolet's stature can be given by the fact that the dean of American music critics, Harold Schonberg, considered him "a kind of latter-day Josef Lhévinne".

In 1984, the A&E Network broadcast a series of three programs entitled Bolet Meets Rachmaninoff, in which the pianist was shown giving masterclasses on Piano Concerto No. 3 (Rachmaninoff), or, as it is popularly known, "The Rach 3". This is followed on the series by a complete performance of Bolet playing the concerto.

The Decca/London recording company contracted him in 1978, so that Bolet got his first major record contract at the age of 63. They made recordings of key sections of his repertoire from 1978 up to his death, but there are also tapes of many live concerts which can be found in archives, principally the International Piano Archive at Maryland. These include a speciality of his, which he studied with the composer himself: the J. Strauss/L.Godowsky Fledermaus paraphrase.

Bolet's health began to decline in 1988, and in 1989 he underwent a brain operation from which he never fully recovered. He died from heart failure in October 1990, at his home in Mountain View, California.

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