Obituary: Alberto Bolet

THE NAME of the Cuban-born pianist Jorge Bolet is a household item wherever music is discussed; that of his elder brother, the conductor Alberto Bolet, is less common currency, though Alberto was a professional musician for three-quarters of the century, devoting particular energy to the promotion of Spanish and Latin American music.

Alberto Bolet was born in Havana and played the violin from childhood, stowing away on a ship to Spain at the age of 16 to escape from his father's insistence that he become a lawyer. Between 1922 and 1924 he continued his violin studies in Madrid, then in Paris (in which cities he was music director in a number of theatres) and was briefly in Budapest before forming a trio that toured across Europe and North Africa in the later 1920s and early 1930s.

His move back to the western hemisphere came in 1932, when he went to San Francisco to set up a chamber orchestra; soon afterwards he was called to Hollywood by a compatriot, the composer Ernest Lecuona, a kind of Cuban George Gershwin, who was under contract to a number of studios to provide film-scores.

In 1936 Bolet returned to Havana to found and organise CMZ, Cuba's first classical radio station, where he acted as music director and conductor from 1937 to 1943, founding and running both the first radio symphony orchestra in Cuba, which gave more than 300 concerts on air in the first three years, and the Trio de la Habana, with the pianist Alberto Falcn and cellist Alberto Roldn (brother of the better-known, but shorter-lived, composer Amadeo Roldn). Bolet was also now taking conducting lessons from Erich Kleiber, who, in self-imposed exile from Nazi Germany, had emigrated to South America and at this point was chief conductor of the Orquestra Filarmnica de Havana.

Bolet's next conducting position came in 1948 when he was asked to head the Ballet Espanol de Ana Maria, with which he toured all over South America for three years. It was a high-profile organisation: the sets of one of its productions, Rodolfo Halffter's La madrugada del Panadero, were designed by no less a figure than Salvador Dali. His experience with the Ballet Espanol, and his energetic concurrent work with the Havana Chamber Orchestra, gave Bolet the stepping-stone to his most important appointment to date when, in 1951, he became music director of the Havana Philharmonic, a post he held until January 1959.

During that period he gave concerts with some of the leading soloists of the day: his brother Jorge, of course, but also including Jascha Heifetz, Jose Iturbi, Andre Kostelanetz, Victoria de los Angeles, Andres Segovia, Pilar Lorengar, Alicia de Larrocha and Nicanor Zabaleta. His repertoire liberally embraced contemporary composers, many of whom became friends, Stravinsky, Ginastera and Villa-Lobos among them; and he made a particular point of presenting modern Cuban music, not least that of Edgardo Martn, Julin Orbn and Aurelio de la Vega, whose Overtura a una Farsa Seria later became one of Bolet's handful of recordings.

Bolet's time in Cuba came to an end when a librarian friend tipped him off that he had been blacklisted by Castro's revolutionary government and was earmarked for arrest. He persuaded the BBC to offer him a recording contract, which provided him with the means of exit, his flight turning him unintentionally into a cultural icon and symbol of rejection of the Communist regime. Though he was soon followed by his family, his stay in England was brief, and he began a peripatetic series of engagements around the world, first as director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and as a guest conductor in Sydney, in Madrid and Valencia.

It was Spain that was next to hold him when, for six years from 1962, he took over the helm of the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra, where the soprano Montserrat Caballe and violinist Salvatore Accardo were among the young musicians whose careers he nurtured. He became a regular visitor to most of the London orchestras, conducting also in Vienna, Norway, Germany and the United States. He took up his last permanent post in 1968, with the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra in California, building it in his 10 years there from a community orchestra to one with fully professional status.

Though Bolet's achievement was rarely of the headline-grabbing variety, his solid, persistent support of the music that he cared about made audiences all over the world aware of it. He was still standing up for it as recently as last year when, at the age of 93, he was honoured with a concert in a Cuban-American festival before an audience of 15,000 Californians and presented with the Cuban Palm Award - one of the many national and international honours he received in recognition of his accomplishments in conducting and in music in general.

He was also a practised talker about music, and wrote a couple of books - a History of Chamber Music and, less predictably, How to Play the Castanets.

Martin Anderson

Alberto J. Bolet, conductor: born 10 September 1905; married 1950 Rosa Suarez (two sons, one daughter); died Teaneck, New Jersey 10 November 1999.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Arts and Entertainment
Full throttle: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in God's Pocket
film
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie Minogue is expected to return to Neighbours for thirtieth anniversary special
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment