Gramophone - February 2007 - Written by Jed Distler

BRAHMS Piano Sonata No. 3. Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24

Pianist Jerome Rose's liner-notes cite his youthful impression of "the eternal youth and fervour" with which Arthur Rubinstein played Brahms's F minor Sonata in his sixties. Maybe today's twenty-something pianists similarly will respond to the sixty-something Rose's big­-boned, impassioned interpretation. He dives into the outer movements' declamatory phrases and gnarly textures as if his life depended on it, and imbues the central Scherzo movement with infectious swagger and lilt. He shapes the Andante espressivo in large, flexible yet cohesive arcs, and does so with the Intermezzo as he anchors the long-lined phrases by firmly articulating the underpinning funeral march rhythms. There are occasional instances of over-pedalling plus a few "notes that got away" that make me wonder if Rose records long takes in order to keep the music's energy up and the big picture in focus. If so, more power to him. In the Handel Variations, Rose's effortlessly effected transitions, fluid tempo relationships and astutely proportioned rubato reveal that a seasoned, experienced Brahmsian is in charge. He sometimes varies his voicing on the repeats in a manner more organic than wilful, much as how one perceives the horizon at different times during the day. And certain unorthodox touches prove convincing, such as Rose's unusually slow and subjective Variation 19 (marked vivace). Yet I'm also bothered by the pianist's heavy-handed articulation of Variation 1 and the final variations, his tendency to rush note values in Variations 13 and 14, plus the valedictory fugue's overly insistent, pounded-out passages. While other pianists more successfully fuse power and finesse in these works (Arrau, Katchen, Ax, Hatto and Rösel), Jerome Rose's Brahms still conveys undeniable communicative immediacy, abetted in part by Joseph Patrych's excellent engineering.

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