Classical Music Daily - February 2023 - Written by Esdras Mugatik
Astounding! An open letter to a great artist.
Greetings Professor Rose,
I have just heard your Rachmaninoff Sonata No 2 performance on YouTube and I want to tell you that it is astounding - just astounding. Many words of acclaim and praise are due to you for this superb interpretation.
I have long admired your great musicianship and great virtuosity and they are found here in a performance of total command, deep insight and true musical wisdom. Just fantastic!
It is also obvious that your knowledge is based on vast experience, for you have performed for many decades, appeared around the world in concert and concerti, made a shelf full of recordings and taught countless students in lesson and masterclass. You studied with Adolph Baller, Leonard Shure and Rudolf Serkin and have collaborated with a luminous array of conductors and orchestras (such as Georg Solti, Sergiu Comissiona and Charles Mackerras). All of those experiences add up to create the command that your performance exhibits.
And what of the performance here? What can I say? Well, I assure you it will be great praise.
I am deeply impressed by your ability to clarify the complex textures of this powerful composition; not by omitting, or ignoring or underplaying the inner voices, but by such a judicious balancing of the voices and chords that while all is perfectly present and perfectly clear, there is no clutter or confusion, just the pure music.
Your control of technique is total and I deeply appreciate that you do not attack the piano, but draw from it a beautiful, balanced and nuanced tone. For example: unlike some barnstorming pseudo-virtuosi, you insist that all sounds at the piano have a musical meaning. That is what the great pedagogue Tobias Matthay taught. Thus, say in a passage high in the piano’s register, you do not drive nails into the ears of your listeners, but create scintillating waves of sound.
Another striking feature of your performance (and this is found in all your performances) is the very subtle emphasis of phrasing that might almost be called elocution. Just a tiny hesitation, a tiny emphasis, a tiny rubato that alters the music from a mere mechanical rendition to an artistic creation. In this era when electronic (MIDI) and computer music dominate how we hear, your playing style is based on human nature, not mechanical method. These days we are being tricked by the Turing Test into believing that a machine-like performance is music. This is why you are sometimes called things like 'The Last of the Great Romantics' or such like. That may be (though I hope you are not the last of the tradition), but the reason is that your performances are alive.
I thank you for this grand performance, for the grand music making and for the potent creativity you bring to this music. You are indeed and without question a great pianist. A very great pianist.