Jorge Bolet

Cuban Pianist who took American Citizenship (1914, La Havane – 1990, Mountain View, Californie)

Jorge Bolet was a titan of the Romantic style; he led a career as an international pianist, pedagogue and diplomat, notably serving as cultural attaché at the Cuban embassy in Washington.

At the age of only five Jorge Bolet and his sister attended a concert by pianist Rudolf Ganz. It was a transformative moment for the young boy who just eleven years later gave his first concert at Carnegie Hall in front of both Sergei Rachmaninoff and Vladimir Horowitz. He was a student at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where he studied with Leopold Godowski and Moritz Rosenthal; he then continued to study for two years in Vienna and Paris.

On returning to the United States, he began to study conducting with Fritz Reiner. He also began a teaching career, joining the Curtis Institute in 1939, where he acted as pianist Rudolf Serkin's assistant until 1942. He later taught at the Indiana School of Music and at Bloomington University, before succeeding Rudolf Serkin as Director of the Curtis Institute, in 1977.

Jorge Bolet was appointed Cultural Attaché of the Cuban Embassy in Washington from 1942 to 1945, in the midst of the Second World War. He then joined the American army and left for Japan where, in 1946, he worked as Musical Director of the American headquarters in Tokyo. There he directed the Japanese premiere of The Mikado, Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta. After the war, his career slowed down considerably: he did not experience great success until 1972, when he gave a series of concerts alongside the New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Pierre Boulez. The same year, he was awarded "CD of the Year" for his recording dedicated to the work of Franz Liszt.

Jorge Bolet was dedicated to romantic music, and especially to the works of Franz Liszt and Frédéric Chopin. He nevertheless gave performances of other repertoire, including the Third Sonata for Piano by Norman dello Joïo. His discography however certainly reflects his love for the romantic generation: he recorded Liszt, Chopin, Brahms, Debussy and Rachmaninoff.

Six Landmark Dates in the Life of Jorge Bolet 

1937 :  Winner of the Naumburg Competition
1942 : Started teaching at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where he himself studied
1946 :  Became Musical Director of the American headquarters in Tokyo
1960 :  Played for Dirk Bogarde, who starred in the role of Franz Liszt in the film Song without end by Charles Vidor
1977 :  Became director of the Curtis Institute
1985 :  Performed the Concerto n°1 for Piano by Piotr Ilitch Tchaikovsky with the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Marek Janowski  in the Olivier Messiaen Hall.