Pioneer Press/ - March 21, 2010 - Written by Rob Hubbard

Master Rose brings individuality, emotion to Schubert

Did Franz Schubert know what was coming? Did the 31-year-old composer write his final three piano sonatas as meditations on the imminence of his own death? There's evidence to support the idea, but none more compelling than within the music itself, which overflows with a complex and conflicting combination of emotions. And when an experienced pianist gets his hands on those final sonatas, listeners can be taken to depths to which a younger player can only aspire.

Such was the case Saturday night when one of America's grand masters of the piano, Jerome Rose, performed a recital at St. Paul's Sundin Music Hall. Playing two of Schubert's last three sonatas and adding a compelling Frederic Chopin ballade, Rose showed not only interpretive individuality but also an emotional expressiveness that offered intriguing insights into the composer's mind-set in his final year.

Rose opened the concert with Schubert's C-minor Sonata, D. 958, emphasizing the singing in the score, with echoes of the stark, sad and lovely "Winterreise" song cycle that the composer had recently completed. But Rose also summoned up blasts of thunder, Schubert seemingly railing at the fates like his recently departed colleague, Beethoven. The demonic tarantella of the finale sounded like a dance with death, darkly playful and bubbling with menace.

This thirst for the dance emerged again in Chopin's Ballade No. 3 in A flat. It may not have been one of the mazurkas, polonaises or polkas that Chopin favored, but Rose nevertheless gave the piece an interpretation that was light on its feet. That is until he gradually turned up the volume and intensity on its lilting theme until it sounded like a fit of rage. It was a performance of rare power.

The program concluded with Schubert's final sonata, the D. 960 in B flat. On the opening movement, Rose seized every opportunity to emphasize repeated chords reminiscent of the rap of fate knocking at the opening of Beethoven's "Waldstein" sonata (or, more famously, the opening notes of his Fifth Symphony). But the most powerful moments came when the pianist brought a profound sense of resignation to the second movement. After one last delicate dance on the Scherzo, Rose seemed to swirl the gamut of emotions together on a gripping finale.

Rose is also a renowned professor of piano. At 1:30 p.m. today, he returns to Sundin Music Hall (1531 Hewitt Ave., St. Paul) to lead a free master class.

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