EPTA - Summer 2014 - Written by Angela Brownridge

Jerome Rose Plays Beethoven Live in Concert Volume II

Jerome Rose is a virtuoso pianist of the highest order, and in his long list of recordings and recorded live performances for Medici Classics and other record labels he plays, for the majority of the time, solo and concerto works from the romantic era.

Volume 1 of his Beethoven Live in Concert consisted of the last four sonatas, and on this disc he turns to works from Beethoven's early and middle periods. The quality of sound and picture on Blu-ray are outstanding and the lack of fussiness in the camera work shows Rose's economy of technique and lack of any unnecessary gestures. This would be a valuable lesson to any student of the piano and the challenges thrown up by live filmed performances are awesomely met by Rose, who always does what he wants with a control, even in breathtakingly exciting passages, without ever seeming to be careful.

So here the great romantic player transfers his technical and interpretative skills to a different idiom, but what is so gratifying and it could be said unusual, is the virtuoso finding the virtuoso in Beethoven. There is no doubt that Beethoven was a virtuoso, and Rose's performances of these sonatas are far from the sometimes inhibited versions where speeds and attack are more cautious. The speeds in the "Pathetique" and "Moonlight" sonatas are certainly on the fast side, but in the case of the "Moonlight" in the last movement marked presto agitato, the music comes to life with an electricity which I'm sure is just what Beethoven would have wanted. Anything less would fail to meet the brilliance of the writing.

As we move further into Beethoven's compositional life, there is more scope in the Waldstein sonata for virtuosity, and the fast speed that Rose adopts in the first movement is exactly right. There is also more contrast and the emergence of the other aspect of Rose's playing which is power. Speed and power are two of the most exciting things in musical performance, and in this sonata the speed is never in danger of pressing too hard and the clarity of semiquaver passages swirling in torrents, sometimes with filigree lightness, and sometimes with great strength, convey the extraordinary imagination of the composer. However, the second movement, Adagio molto, has another quality of profundity and majesty which are perfectly captured. The sequence of single notes at the outset with Rose is beautifully expressive, and the cantabile rich and deep. The Rondo - Allegretto moderate has just the right degree of lightness and poise which is contrasted with the fire and virtuosity of the triplet semiquavers and later octaves which follow the opening section. This octave passage which starts in the left hand with enormously fast triplets in the right, later being reversed, is an example of exactly how virtuoso a technique is required to bring off this passage at the required breathtaking speed.

The last movement of the "Appassionata" is another case in point where the level of our appreciation of Beethoven's genius is lifted by a speed which is fast and where we feel the performer is fearlessly on the edge, but where flawless execution is never in doubt.

The sonata which asks for the most nuance is "Les Adieux" where the poise and beauty, & feeling of regret are so sensitively achieved in the opening, before the explosion of joy erupts. The Andante espressivo contains the most profound utterances in this work and finds a response of the utmost sensitivity. Here Rose is not afraid to produce grandiose tone where needed and this attitude of going one step further than we might be used to, without ever creating a hard sound, is another aspect that sets these performances apart. The virtuoso is, however, the light-fingered magician in the Vivaccissamente, with a touch that became known as "perle" in the romantic era, and the quirkiness of this movement with its false endings which are testament to Beethoven's sense of humour bring this impressive and thought-provoking recital to an end.

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