PIANO Magazine - December 2003 - Written by Bettina Neumann

Schubert Posthumous Piano Sonatas, D 957, D 958, D 960 (Medici Classics 30072)
Beethoven: Opus 109, 110, 111 Piano Sonatas (Monarch Classics 20012)
Jerome Rose, piano

With the classical record industry in crisis, the marketing of stars seems ever more important. But as Bettina Neumann reflects, quality isn’t always reflected in the marketplace.

As anyone with long experience of teaching young pianists can attest, many outstanding talents go largely unrewarded in the musical marketplaces of the modern world. Now in his sixties, Jerome Rose has had a perfectly respectable career, but he is very much more than a respectable pianist, and very much less than a household name, even in his native United States. It is an unfortunate accident of fate that his latest release, of the last three Schubert sonatas [Medici Classics M30072], should coincide with Perahia’s of the same repertoire (though with Rose you also get a highly commendable account of the Wanderer Fantasy). I confess that while his name was certainly familiar to me, this is the first of Rose’s recordings to come my way. And very impressive it is too. Here is a musician and pianist of uncommon authority, with an equal command of small-scale detail and large-scale structure. His tonal palette is wide-ranging, his sound, even at its biggest, is full of grandeur and intensity, while remaining a stranger to stridency, and his rhythmic vocabulary is comparably varied and deftly applied. Very occasionally he allows the meter to get the upper hand and the phrase falls victim to the beat, but on the whole there is a suppleness and asymmetry of melodic inflection without which the songfulness of Schubert can never be fully released. There is a keen understanding and projection of harmonic rhythm, and an exceptional sensitivity to the motive power of textural variety. But this checklist of virtues should not give the impression that Rose is an ‘intellectual’ or academic pianist. Far from it. He is a player of powerfully communicative instinct. The playing is consistently expressive, dramatic and tender by turns, and like Perahia, he captures the emotional ambiguity, the joy and latent anguish of the composer’s inner world, with unfettered but unshowy eloquence. Having noted that he has also recorded the three Schumann sonatas and the last three Beethoven sonatas (but not yet the three Brahms sonatas) I managed to get hold of the latter [Monarch M20012], which is equally impressive. This awe-inspiring trilogy marks the apex as well as the end of Beethoven’s career as a sonata composer and requires musicianship and technique of the highest order. Rose’s accounts can hold their own in the highest company, surpassing a goodly number of far more famous players. Pianistically even more commanding than in the Schubert (the seamless pianissimo trills near the end of Op 111 outclass a number of his most eminent ‘rivals’), Rose is closely observant of the composer’s markings but never pedantically so. And here we find no idiosyncrasy at all. There is nothing whatever to distract from the music, whose transcendent stature is never in doubt.


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