Musical feats, like athletic feats, have become commonplace in this age of overachievers. Time was when playing the Four Ballades of Chopin on a recital program earned a pianist a special badge for courage and stamina. No longer.
Jorge Bolet, who has earned all the badges he will ever need in a career spanning six decades, returned to Ambassador Auditorium Wednesday night, and closed his program of ballades with the four by Chopin. For the 71-year-old pianist, it was no particular feat. For his listeners, it was a blessing.
Bolet has been playing these four works as a group for a long time; without denying any one of them its unique character, he makes of the group a continuous musical narrative. By itself, for instance, the First Ballade can accommodate a more bombastic approach, and more fervid climaxes than Bolet gave it Wednesday. In this context of remembered, rather than present, conquests, and a certain reticence of heroism, however, this G-minor Ballade positively glowed with inner fires and sculptured, ostensibly spontaneous details.
Naturalness of musical speech combined with a noble and contained statement characterized Bolet's approach to all four pieces. He gave each one its special profile, but excelled in bringing out the kaleidoscopic nature of its gentler moments.