Clavier - July 2007 - Written by Robert Dumm

Jerome Rose Plays Chopin - Live in Concert DVD

When I first heard Jerome Rose in 1989, the West coast pianist had come to give a workshop on the arrangements of 12 mazurkas for voice and piano made by Pauline Viardot, the great mezzo-soprano who was Chopin’s friend.

In our interview then I found an eager, erudite mind of sensibility and bursting ideas. Rose steered his career by his personal interests, doing things for their own sake, like recording more Liszt than anyone had, before the Liszt revival. His early performances showed a builder, whose every note fit into his entire plan. You always felt his grand design, though sometimes the seams showed.

Twenty years later Rose is still the builder, with plenty of artistic growth to show on his first DVD, Jerome Rose Plays Chopin, Live in Concert. Happily given to Chopin’s idea of bel canto in six of the compositer’s most expansive compositions, he comes on stage, faces his audience, eyes half closed with a blissful smile, and sits for Chopin’s first Ballade in G Minor, Op. 23. The born storyteller sense the poetic power of the legend about to unfold and dives head first into the narrative stream. Gone are the seams.

Rose trusts his intuition and lets the music well from inside, guiding each phrase by subtle rubatos or restraint, phrases whose end notes bloom organically into new phrases, ideal for ballades. The Ballades to come are in the order Chopin composed them: Ballade No. 2 in F, Op. 38; Ballade No. 3 in A flat, Op. 47; Ballade No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 52. Weeping chromaticism like a Divine Comedy of human dreaming.

In each ballade Rose knows and clearly shows the exact means. He suspends a note, pedals a pause that turns dreams to nightmare as the lulling dance rhythm accelerates, only to crash in a resonant silence. Rose makes it happen every time.

The artist’s combination of long vision with articulate detail works as well for the two Chopin sonatas that end the DVD – the dramatic, conflicted Funerla March Sonata, Op. 35 in B flat Minor and the angelically lyrical B Minor Sonata, Op. 58, where Rose sings every note of an endless melody in a bel canto style.

Rose’s timing of tensions is superb. He builds with achingly gradual restraint through the dominant harmony that returns the prodigal theme at last intact. It is doubly affirmative, symphonically augmented to the relif of all – in a wash of Romantic agony. The DVD is full of such moments, and you will want to hear it again and again.

As an extra, Rose speaks with his friend David Dubal about Chopin’s genius, full-bloom in his early concert pieces and strongly individual to the end.

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