INTERNATIONAL PIANO - July/August 2004 - Written by Peter J. Rabinowitz

Schubert: Three Posthumous Sonatas and Wanderer Fantasie
Medici Classics M30072

Jerome Rose, a former pupil of Rudolf Serkin, is most famous for his Liszt (in fact, he taped the Liszt arrangement of the Wanderer Fantasy years before recording the original). No surprise, then, that his Schubert is both extroverted and forward-looking. These are arguably Schubert’s most substantial works for the piano; and they get large-scale, authoritative performances marked by bold rhythms, gruff tone and am often thrilling sense of high-romantic drama - made more thrilling still by a structural understanding that gives the points of arrival a stunning sense of inevitability. Although Rose is certainly capable of haunting reticence (the Adagio of the Wanderer Fantasy is a good example), there's no attempt here to make Schubert pretty. Accents are often biting (try the opening of the C minor), and Schubert’s more daring harmonic experiments (for instance, to the tortured dissonances in the first movement of the A major) are brought to the fore. It’s not that the playing is relentless, much less brutal: Rose inflects the more lyrical passages with a disarming rubato (try, for instance, the second theme in the first movement of the C minor), and there’s a sunny brightness to the finale of the B flat major. Nor, for that matter, is Rose excessively earnest: there's plenty of rough-and-tumble play in the third movement of the A major. But those who turn to Schubert for naive simplicity - much less for the kind of spiritual contemplation found in Richter's provocative performances of the B flat major - will certainly find Rose on the assertive side; and while Rose hardly scants the details (in particular, details of articulation), his readings can fairly be called plain-spoken, especially compared to Paul Lewis’s magnificently eventful readings of the A major and B flat major sonatas that showed up last year. Certainly, no one will accuse Rose of either diffidence or fussiness. Not everything works. Although dynamic shading on a local level is often arresting, long-range dynamic contrasts are sometimes reined in, cushioning the power of the big crescendo passages. Then, too, a touch of stiffness and strain mars some of the repetitious rhythms (say, in the finale of the C minor). All in all, though, these are sturdy performances that should bring some deserved attention to a seriously under-appreciated pianist.

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