Fanfare - January/February 2003 - Written by Susan Kagan

Beethoven Piano Sonatas: No. 30 in e, op. 109; No. 31 in A, op. 110; No. 32 in c, op. 111;
Jerome Rose, piano; Monarch Classics M20012 (Total Time: 66:14)

Jerome Rose displays his strengths as a versatile musician in this new recording of that magnum opus for piano, the three last sonatas of Beethoven. The pianist’s previous recordings (some originally on the Vox Classics label) have concentrated on the Romantic repertoire—Chopin, Schumann, and Liszt—where his brilliant technique has been shown to advantage. The demands of late Beethoven require a good deal more from a pianist in the way of feeling and expression, and Rose meets them admirably. An overall observation is that he follows the score with scrupulous fidelity in regard to dynamics, tempo changes, and other aspects of Beethoven’s expressive indications. (Since Rose was a student of Leonard Shure, and thus a second-generation adherent of the Schnabel tradition, one would hardly expect less.)

Most notable throughout this program is the propulsive energy in the fast movements that characterized Rose’s Schumann disc (Fanfare 19:3). In the opening movement of op. 111, he tears into the Allegro with an almost reckless abandon (but clearly in full control). The contrasts in dynamics and changes in tempo throughout the first movement of op. 109—indeed, throughout all three sonatas—are carefully followed. In the first movement of opus 110, with its meditative character, Rose plays with considerable flexibility of tempo, making the most of the small climaxes and nuances of rubato indicated by Beethoven. He handles technical difficulties with fluent ease; the long trills at the end of op. 111 are seamless; the counterpoint of the fugal sections, and especially the two fugues of op. 110, is clearly delineated. The finale of op. 110 is magnificent, as the pianist moves from the haunting recitative (where Beethoven calls for five changes of tempo within four measures) through the shifts between Arioso dolente and fugue, to the magisterial stretto that ends the final fugue.

In short, this release recalls the virtues of Pollini’s admirable traversal of these works, with even a bit more fire and intensity.

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