Jorge Bolet made this superbly languid and delicate recording of 16 Préludes by Debussy less than two years before his untimely death in 1990 at the age of 75. The Cuban-born pianist's reputation was largely founded on his mercurial, blockbusting performances and recordings of Rachmaninov and Liszt, but this disc shows a true pianist’s lightness of touch, as well as some superbly sensitive engineering and technical preparation of his beloved Baldwin SD-10 instrument, chosen by Bolet in preference to the far more popular Steinways.
Bolet's own personal fastidiousness – he always recorded in a jacket and tie – is reflected, and in perhaps unexpected and certainly fascinating ways, in this personal selection from the two books of twelve Préludes, and the ordering of them. He may have been a reluctant, and and indeed until the last couple of decades of his life, infrequent visitor to the studio – he once remarked that he would rather give hundreds of concerts than make one recording – but this wariness does not translate itself into metronomical stiffness but rather reflect a refined version of the spontaneity that manifested itself more naturally in his concert playing.
‘Bolet’s performances, with their inimitable beauty of line and shimmering sonority (very much the product of an unobtrusive but subtle virtuoso pedal technique), their poetic freedom within a basic pulse, were like some serene and final distillation of all he had learnt and known, the massive and legendary virtuosity of earlier days directed into an everincreasing concern with more durable musical truths.’ Gramophone, 1991
“Bolet's deep and velvety touch brings out a more profound mysticism in Debussy's multifaceted visions.”
7th November 2010
“He basically alternates tranquil and lively, but slow and dreamy pieces such as Des pas sur la neige or La Fille aux cheveux de lin seem to loom largest — dreamy not meaning ethereal, but a spaciousness and weightiness of sonority new to Debussy, and of which Bolet is the suavest exponent.”
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