Fanfare - March/April 2003 - Written by Michael Ullman

Schumann Davidsbundlertanze, op. 6. Kreisleriana, op. 16;
Jerome Rose, piano; Monarch Classics M20062 (Total Time: 70:45)

When I was first learning about classical music in some detail, my like-minded friends and I—all indigent—often focused on inexpensive items like Vox boxes. I discovered Brendel that way, but I know I first heard of Jerome Rose through his Vox recordings of Liszt, recordings many people adored. I had, and still have, a problem listening to Liszt, who seems to me uncomfortably sentimental when he is not being outrageously showy. Transcendental? Bosh, as a Dickens character would (politely) say.

So I never warmed to Rose either. Recently, though, Rose has responded boldly to a lull in his recording career by starting his own record company, Monarch Classics, which so far features his own recordings. Fanfare readers will already have encountered Susan Kagan’s glowing account of Rose’s (and Monarch’s) recording of late Beethoven sonatas, as well as Peter Burwasser’s review of the first of a Jerome Rose Schumann series. With those recordings, and with this second Schumann disc and the Chopin reviewed elsewhere in this issue, Rose has moved into a repertoire that is much more to my taste. I am just now appreciating the depth and range of Rose’s musicianship, his technical facility, of course, but also the disciplined passion of his playing, its nuanced energy, and frequent charm. There’s the almost innocent grace with which he approaches the middle section of the fourth number of Kreisleriana. It is marked Sehr langsam, an indication that Rose takes seriously. His rendition is considerably slower than the equally admirable recording by Pollini issued last year on Deutsche Grammophon.

That is not to criticize Pollini. These short works, and the playful numbers of the Davidsbundlertanze, respond well to varied treatments. Rose’s is notable for its sobriety as well as occasional dash, for the touching poise and restraint we hear on pieces like “Wie aus der Ferne,” and for his vigor and humor on the piece marked “Wild und lustig.” The challenge of these short pieces is not, as with late Beethoven, to illuminate the deep structure of the work while intriguing us with the details. Rather, a pianist needs to express the varied moods— innocently wistful, humorous, exuberant—found here without emphasizing the frequent technical difficulties. Rose is everywhere successful at conveying Schumann’s shifting moods without pulling the pieces apart. This is, in short, a superior Schumann recording, to be placed alongside Pollini’s and compared to old favorites such as the Annie Fischer Kreisleriana. A minor glitch. The track listings go up to 27, but that is only because number 23 has been skipped on the listing. This error shows that Rose, pianist, businessman, scholar, and promoter of good music, is fallible.

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