Gramophone - July 19, 2011 - Written by Jed Distler

Everything's coming up Rose

It’s another New York July, and for the first time in ages I can attend the International Keyboard Institute & Festival at the Mannes College/New School for Music auditorium on 150 West 85th Street, now in its 13th season.

Traditionally, founder and artistic director Jerome Rose gives the opening recital. He did so with an all-Brahms program, and, believe me, the man has never played better. Everything is coming together for Rose now. The music emerged with multi-levelled, thoughtfully contoured textures that were full-bodied, clear and cogent, rather than notey. Every piece told a story in sweeping paragraphs and long phrases that allowed Brahms’ cross-rhythmic operations their due, moving over the bar lines yet with unflagging rhythmic incision. You heard that in the two Op 79 Rhapsodies that opened the program, in the F Minor Sonata’s craggy first movement (Rose’s effortless, hair-raising octaves at the development section’s start stunned me), in a slow movement that ebbed and flowed, and a febrile, chance-taking finale that combined Rubinstein’s élan and Katchen’s nerve. Rose gave over the concert’s second half to the Op 116 piano pieces, and fused poetry with power, pushing the Yamaha grand’s immense dynamic range to the maximum, yet never, ever banging.
For an encore Rose played Liszt’s Third Consolation. The final bars are sparse and threadbare, and it was interesting how Rose deliberately drew them out to give them a stronger conclusive sense. This is but one example of how Rose’s musical choices are borne out of long experience and living with this repertoire. It’s been 50 years since he placed first in the International Busoni Competition, and I suspect this current stage of his long teaching and performing life will reap the most artistic rewards.

Indeed, lots of pianists evolve late in life, and wind up producing very special work: think of Rubinstein’s Indian summer, Bolet’s belated international career, the breadth and repose typifying Brendel in his early seventies, Horszowski flowering in his nineties, Earl Wild’s staggering Brahms F Minor Sonata at age 86, Egon Petri at 74 raising the roof as he made child’s play of Busoni’s Fantasia Contrappuntistica. To this stellar list, add Jerome Rose’s Brahms on July 17th, 2011. Will his recent re-recording of the F Minor Sonata be equally uplifting?

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