Pianist Magazine - August/September 2003 - Written by Calum MacDonald
Beethoven: The Last Three Sonatas
Sonata in E, op. 109; Sonata in A flat, op. 110; Sonata in C minor, op. 111
Monarch Classics 2001
Jerome Rose is a distinguished pianist of experience, intellectual stature and real insight. He plays these masterpieces with utter dedication and the kind of sovereign, omnicompetent technique that it is impertinent to praise. (So instead I’ll enter a small criticism, of the apparent heaviness of his touch – though this may really be an effect of the rather close recording, and in any case it’s only a minor distraction in performances of such sincerity and conviction.) I especially liked the way he delineates the spacious and purposeful architecture of the finale of op. 110, and he well conveys the spiritual aura that enwraps this music – most of all in the finale of op. 111 – without losing any of the necessary sense of thrust and physicality in the fast movements. But competition is never more cut-throat than in Beethoven’s late sonatas; or to put it more grandly, this is a field tilled by the gods. It’s entirely understandable that an artist of Rose’s quality should wish to measure himself against his peers, by performing and recording these works – perhaps even now the very summit of the repertoire, not for difficulty but for humanity and sublimity. Yet the hard question, is, can he – or many other equally god-gifted pianists – make these sonatas yield anything that we have not already had revealed to us in the recordings of Brendel, or Gilels, or Kempff, or Solomon? In the presence of such giants, even very, very good performances like these seem, well, a bit surplus to requirements. But if you’re untroubled by such thoughts and simply want great music superbly played, you can buy this disc with confidence.