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Mid-Romantic Thunder

New York
Merkin Hall, Kaufman Music Center
07/08/2024 -  
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Sonata No. 10 in C Major, K. 300h [330]
Robert Schumann: Davidsbündlertänze, Opus 6
Franz Liszt: Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S. 173: 3. “Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude”, 7. “Funérailles” & 10. “Cantique d’amour”

Jerome Rose (Pianist)

J. Rose in Merkin Hall (© Samuel A. Dog)

In each and every age joy and sorrow are mingled:
Remain pious in joy, and be ready for sorrow with courage.”
Old saying: Epigraph to Davidsbündlertänze

For more than a quarter-century, Jerome Rose, International Keyboard Institute & Festival Founder and Director, has snubbed mid‑summer sun and hurricanes, bringing six or seven excellent pianists together for a week of virtuosity. And who better than Mr. Rose, whose less than humble For the Young Virtuoso summarizes his long distinguished life?

“Distinguished” can be an offensive word for an artist, signifying pedantry, Old School technique and even a lack of inner power. Yet Mr. Rose has indeed distinguished himself over seven decades, with orchestras, recitals, teaching and work throughout the world.

Thus, opening the International Keyboard Institute & Festival garnered a full house crowd at Merkin Hall. They came perhaps for the start of the festive week, but more likely because Jerome Rose is virtually an avatar of triumphant mid‑19th Century music. One expected massive fortissimos, whispering pianissimos and dazzling trills and double‑handed piano runs.

In this they were not disappointed. Yes, this was not perfect playing, and several fingering mistakes were made in the centerpiece Schumann work. But as a student of Leonard Schure, himself a student of Artur Schnabel, errors were mere breaths in relation to the import of an entire piece.

The opening was not, alas, Jerome Rose at his personal finest. Just as the Romantic age brought forth his emotional muscle, the Mozart C Major Sonata was a bit timid, a bit cold. Perhaps his allegiance to the Classical aura precluded excess feeling, and he did have the fingerwork down flat. But the second theme of the Andante cantabile is highly personal section, and Mr. Rose rode through it with the same charmless expertise as the rest of the work.

He was back on familiar ground (to Mr. Rose, not the audience), with Robert Schumann’s Davidsbündlertänze, an early work which never seems to hold together, even with the greatest players. The reason is apparent. The first theme (a tribute to Clara Schumann still named Clara Wieck), peeps through the 18 different songs, but not enough to give unity for 30 minutes.

The contrasts are wide enough, some dedicated to Florestan and Eusebius, the first pure joy, the second artistic grief. Mr. Rose ran through the work with all his craft. Yet the jolting differences weren’t so much contrasts as simply jumping emotions.

This though was a distinctive performance. One could, if fatuously, compare his interpretation with the aura of a Leos Janácek. Each movement wasn’t so much played as talked. One felt here that Schumann wanted to express verbally what could only be played on the keyboard.

The result was like a conversation between artist and instrument. Though each subject–sensitive or hackneyed, euphonious or dissonant–was offered and resolved before we knew the outcome.

The result was technical triumph for Mr. Rose. Musically it was baffling, The audience chose the former path.

There were no reservations about his three Liszt choices. (Four with a beautiful Third Consolation encore.) Mr. Rose used his big glowing tone for the “Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude.” This sounded nothing like a benediction or a solitude. (For that we must wait for Thursday’s Quartet for the End of Time.) But this was Liszt at his mightiest and Mr. Rose at his most thunderous.

“Funérailles” was equally a drama rather than a service. A dirge, a battle, a rush of fingers, a black curtain falling down. Mr. Rose gave us the whole drama. And if Liszt’s “Cantique d’amour” was less a hymn that a bubbly fizzy set of adorations, Jerome played it with all the digital finesse and inner power it deserved.

Harry Rolnick



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