The second evening of the XII University of Maryland International Piano Festival and Competition was given to Jorge Bolet. He, in turn, offered his audience a gift of greatness, of music that was at once ardent and articulate, of elegant pianism at its finest.
Bolet is rightly noted for his interpretations of the 19th-century repertoire, and last night's program included major works by Mendelssohn, Schumann, Schubert and Liszt. If one already loves a piece, Bolet's readings tend to deepen that feeling; if the love is not there, his persuasive touch leads to reevaluation and often to discovery. Thus it was that from Schumann's stormy Fantasy in C Major to a pensive encore by Bolet's teacher, Leopold Godowsky, all the music seemed necessary, right and new in his hands.
Mendelssohn's Fantasy in F-sharp Minor, Op. 28, better known as the "Sonate e'cossaise," was approached in more solemn a mood than the scores might want. But its arpeggios descended and arose with dignity and the powerful allegro reveled in melodic joy. Schumann's Fantasy, Op. 17, was the evening's climax. The composer dedicated it to Liszt, but its program is loosely intended to allude to the ruins, triumphs and crowning glories of Beethoven's musical achievement. Bolet's expansive treatment was revelatory.
After intermission came a curious set of five Schubert song transcriptions by Liszt. The beginning was not flawless, but by "Die Forelle" Bolet's grand and hefty approach seemed the only way to hear these songs. "Erlko nig" was the most effective, a score that Liszt transcribed for orchestra and voice and then concentrated for the piano alone seemingly with no reduction. It calls for a singer's legato and a pianist's greatest percussive powers. These Bolet had, and it was the theme of the Elf King as he came to steal a life that haunted and resounded in the memory long after the concert had ended.