Fanfare Magazine - May/June 2005 - Written by Paul Ingram

JEROME ROSE PLAYS FRANZ LISZT: Sonata, Don Juan Fantasy, Mephisto Waltz
Medici Clasics M30092

The Sonata from Rose is big-scale, a virtuosic approach to what remains a fearsome challenge. The sight of those notes, crammed into the measures on the page, is always daunting. Rose presents a valid third way, to go with Brendel’s cerebration and spiritual control, and Richter’s great, spur-of the moment fantasy. Rose has lived with the work for a lifetime, but on the day he has decided to abandon caution. This virtuosity isn’t flashy: it’s dark, and steely, with no trace of unctuousness for the big tunes. The percussive chords are brutal in the extreme. It’s as though Rose has found some tormented Romantic literary background for the work. There are more effortless versions in the catalog, but Rose wrestles manfully, and the sense of struggle seems apt, if sometimes fierce. The fugue is demonic, and for Rose, this masterpiece is about the unbearable realities of life rather than an essay in cool formal innovation. Not a safe first choice, but well worth hearing by those who think they know the Sonata. The cumulative effect of this approach conveys courage, rather than insensitivity.

For the huge Don Juan fantasy, Rose does his best to grow a third hand, as all pianists must. The Mephisto Waltz receives a serious interpretation, raising the stature of the disc. The last three minutes of the Waltz are terribly difficult to sustain, but by then Rose is swept away in the kind of meaningful, technical control that compels the musical attention. Devilry, not circus antics. Good stuff.


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