Piano Street Magazine

Master Pianist Jorge Bolet Rehearsing and Teaching Rachmaninov

August 31st, 2011 in Top Video Picks by | 5 comments

Jorge Bolet was born in Havana, 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. Bolet is particularly well remembered for his performances and recordings of large-scale Romantic music, particularly works by Franz Liszt, César Franck and Frédéric Chopin. He also specialised in piano transcriptions and unusual repertoire, including the fiendishly difficult works of Godowsky, many of which Bolet had studied with the composer himself. In an interview given to Elyse Mach (Great Contemporary Pianists Speak for Themselves, Dover), Bolet extensively mentioned an obscure piece by Joseph Marx which was, according to Bolet’s own words, his favorite among virtuoso concertos because of the enormous show of strength required from the soloist.

See and hear Jorge Bolet and Conductor Paavo Berglund in a preliminary rehearsal prior to a full rehearsal with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in a performance of the Rachmaninov 2nd Piano Concerto.

Later Bolet became Head of Piano at the Curtis Institute, succeeding Rudolf Serkin, but he resigned from this to concentrate once again on his performing career. A measure of Bolet’s stature can be given by the fact that the dean of American music critics, Harold C. Schonberg (New York Times), considered him “a kind of latter-day Josef Lhévinne”.

Here follows part 11 (of 14) of a famous 1983 master class by Jorge Bolet featuring pianists Ira Levin, Jose Feghali, Philip Smith, Marc-Antionio Barone, Wolfgang Manz (in this clip) and Barry Douglas.

Also listen to Bolet’s highly praised 9 CD box (Decca) with piano works of Franz Liszt:

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  • Richard says:

    Thank you for this marvelous feature.

  • Maria Arlene says:

    Very well appreciated. Please post more of rehearsals and teaching by the great masters, specifically Chopin’s works, i.e. Fantaisie Impromptu and his etudes. Thank you very much.

  • Karl Svatos says:

    I love ( as it is proper to love music that moves the heart ) the melodic themes of Sergey Rachmaninoff. I often have wondered what are the early life experiences ( marvelous ) and despeiring events that grow that melodic weave in the mind. As I have read “melodic sequence” was Rachmaninoff gift, and what a gorgeous gift it is that he has given us. I am moved by all his music, and I muse at the contest between him and his peers, especialy Prokofiev. Since I think that they had to part company thematicaly, Rach with melodic lines and Prokofiev with atonal music. I find such depth of expression with Rach’s concertos aside from the prodigious technique the melodies and chords at times explode ( if one could use such un musical term ) with such beauty, hight and depth and breadth of feeling, it is an opulence of musical gifts – I can only imagine having the luck to have had an afternoon walk in a park provoking a convesation with such great man. I thank his country of birth for that gift.

  • Louis Podesta says:

    I never cease to be amazed by the level of verbal theater associated with Master Classes. Phrases like … “your hands are moving too much,” come to mind. Hey, what do I know? I always thought playing the piano had to do with effectuating a sound, and not how fast or slow ones hands moved. It is even more ridiculous considering that this particular pianist played with an absolutely still hand. The bottom line is that Jorge Bolet has been made into a god since his death in Los Angeles from AIDS. More importantly, his pedagogical skills as a teacher can be summarized into one sentence. Not one of his students is currently earning a living as a concert pianist – not one! I guess their hands were moving too fast.

  • Jerzy Zbigniew Przybojewski says:

    What a marvellous master class! Bolet is most sensitive and observant and the student an excellent pianist despite being hampered by rather small hands for Rachmaninoff”s music.

    Thank you for this contribution. I do hope that many pianists will study it.
    Bolet is a dynamic pianist!

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