International Piano - March/April 2010 - Written by Julian Haylock

Beethoven, Chopin, & Liszt DVDs
Medici Classics

Recorded live at Yamaha Artist Services in New York between 2007 and 2009, Jerome Rose performs some of the most hallowed pieces of the piano repertoire with an exemplary poise and technical ease that is as engrossing to watch as it is to listen to. His sleight-of-hand, engagingly relaxed style makes even the most note-splattered pages appear deceptively easy, almost as though there was no physical effort involved. Yet behind Rose's almost Arrau-like demeanour - watching his gently cosseting finger action is an education in itself- lies a probing musical intelligence that, in terms of its unaffected naturalness and clarity of focus, is reminiscent of the great Louis Kentner.

Rose's tantalising combination of interpretative warmth and structural directness is at its most revelatory in the late Beethoven sonatas. The Prestissimo of op. 109 and Allegro molto of op. 110 possess a no-nonsense, Pollini-like rigour, yet are the polar-opposite of the Italian's essentially vertical attack. Rose's cantabile touch really comes into its own in the op. 111 Sonata, which exchanges Barenboim's high-tensile fire-and-drive for an epic grandeur that ensures the opening movements restless thrusting never becomes merely oppressive.

Rose's Chopin lies closer to Rubinstein's aristocratic benevolence than Malcuzynski's intense sparkle, yet his emotional grip of the emotionally wide-ranging ballades and sonatas is reminiscent at times of Krystian Zimerman. The way Rose initially keeps the A flat Ballade's final coda on a tight rein before spontaneously surging away is unforgettable, as is his deeply poetic playing of the potentially diffuse F minor Ballade. To watch Rose's hands rippling effortlessly over the keys in the scherzo and finale of the B minor sonata, with absolute precision, is a timely reminder that it is possible to play at high velocity and voltage without hammering the instrument into submission.

Liszt's was one of the most complex of creative minds. In his music the spiritually sublime and the irrepressibly vulgar, the genuinely dramatic and the melodramatic rub shoulders, often to mesmerising effect, and nowhere more memorably than in the B minor Sonata. Rose holds the mighty edifice together with gripping insight, never allowing the music to descend into emotional free-fall. One can only sit and marvel at Rose's supreme musical poise and technical control - his thundering octaves and the finger-breaking fugue are nonchalantly thrown off — even if the devil-may-care effrontery of Liszt's more outlandish demands is slightly underplayed here. That said, Rose's refusal to play to the gallery works wonders in the shorter pieces, most especially the three Petrarch Sonnets which resonate in the memory long after the music has stopped.

All three discs are blessed with unobtrusively revealing camera work and excellent sound quality.




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