Classical Music Guide - July 15, 2018 - Written by Donald Isler

Jerome Rose at IKIF 2018

Jerome Rose - IKIF
20th International Keyboard Institute and Festival at Hunter College
July 15th, 2018

Beethoven: Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109
Schumann: Humoreske in B-Flat Major, Op. 20
Harmonies poétiques et religieuses
Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude
Cantique d'amour

Yes, it's that time of summer, meaning the beginning of the latter half of July, when lovers of the piano and its repertoire flock to Hunter College for the International Keyboard Institute and Festival. It offers two weeks of recitals (often two a day) presented by exceptional pianists of all ages, plus classes, master classes, lectures, and a competition.

The founder of the Festival, now beginning its 20th season, is the pianist Jerome Rose, who, traditionally, gives the opening night recital. The winner of the 1961 Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition, and a student of Rudolf Serkin and Leonard Shure, Mr. Rose has had a long and impressive career as an artist and teacher, and is as busy as ever. Next month he will celebrate his 80th birthday. He is a very serious musician (which also came across in what he told me during an interview last year) and he always plays big, demanding programs.

The first movement of Beethoven's Op. 109 was beautifully played, alternately thoughtful and turbulent. The second movement was appropriately wild. In the third movement there was a good intensity in the first variation, a nice interplay of the hands in the second, a lovely rolling-along sensation in the fourth variation, and excellent voicing of the melody against the trills in the sixth.

The Humoreske of Schumann is quite an odd, though fascinating major work. Its many peculiarities include at least one brilliant "false ending" which produced applause from the audience at the wrong time! The first allegro section in B-Flat Major was performed in a lively manner, with beautiful phrasing. The D Minor section was dramatic, the quasi-fugato Intermezzo section was brilliant, and a later section, where the melody is played in octaves, was deeply felt.

Amidst a lot of very fine playing in the Beethoven and Schumann there was some rushing and a few memory lapses. But by the second half of the program Mr. Rose was at the top of his game. Indeed, though this should not be a surprise, considering his reputation as a Liszt player, the all-Liszt second half of the program was marvelous!

The Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude was lush and lovely, though powerful. Mr. Rose handled the complicated arpeggiation and ornamentation with ease. In the Funérailles he produced a huge sound, and his octaves were those of a young virtuoso! In Cantique d'amour there is a melody with an accompaniment "floating" around it, and later an ardent melody punctuated by brilliant octaves. I couldn't imagine this played any better!

Mr. Rose played one encore, the Thirteenth Hungarian Rhapsody of Liszt. The "quasi-gypsy mode" was exactly right, and in the end he pulled out all the stops. Very exciting, indeed!

The Festival is off to a good start!

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