Fanfare Magazine - May/June 2004 - Written by Susan Kagan
Schubert Sonatas, op. posth: in C, D 958; in A, D 959; in B flat, D 960
Wanderer Fantasie, op. 15, Medici Classics M30072 (2 CDs: 135:07)
Jerome Rose, piano
As shown in his recent Beethoven CD (Monarch Classics M 20012), Jerome Rose can be relied upon for straightforward, unmannered musicianship. His readings are faithful to the score and without exaggeration; he plays cleanly, and uses the pedal sparingly. The last three Schubert sonatas, like Beethoven’s last three, are profoundly individual in character and expression, and Rose is most successful in those that demand a strong and well-organized treatment. Not surprisingly, then, it is Schubert’s “Beethovenian” C-Minor Sonata, D 958, that seems to best suit Rose’s gifts. The first movement is intense and dramatic, with due attention to dynamic changes and phrasing. (It should be noted that he takes the first movement repeats in all three sonatas.) The magnificent slow movement, in Schubert’s favorite rondo form, with its stormy outbursts between calm returns of the theme, is beautifully played, with the melody singing in the right hand; Rose is especially deft at bringing out that melody when it is woven into the middle range in the final statement of the theme. The wild tarantella of the finale is brilliant—manic but controlled. Rose’s approach is very similar to that of the gifted pianist Paul Lewis, whose recent recording appeared on Harmonia Mundi. The A-Major Sonata also has its forceful moments in the first movement, but generally a more lyrical character prevails (as it does throughout most of the sonata). Rose’s reading stresses the lyrical aspects, and he plays the haunting coda most effectively. In the slow movement, characterized by highly dramatic “storm” sections (but now in a minor key), the pianist evokes the emotional content of the movement very eloquently. The Scherzo is delightfully playful and brilliant, and in the finale, the quasi-fugal section in the episode at the center of the Rondo is played with vivid contrasts between the contrapuntal voices. The B-flat Sonata, which has been recorded by myriad pianists in the last two decades, is somewhat less satisfying. In the first movement Rose seems to have problems with the piano; the left hand is bumpy, the bass trills uneven and muddy, and some notes do not sound—surely problems that could have been dealt with in recording and editing. The rest of the sonata is very good, and the tempos throughout are perfect. Finally, there is Rose’s reading of the “Wanderer” Fantasy, which is everything it should be—technically adept, fiery, meltingly lyrical in the piercing slow movement, and in brilliant command of the keyboard in the fugal finale. This performance of the “Wanderer,” perhaps Schubert’s best known large-scale piano composition, so beloved by audiences and so often recorded, ranks among the best.