Classical Music Guide Forums - Sunday, August 1, 2010 - Written by Donald Isler

Jerome Rose Recital - IKIF

The 12th Annual International Keyboard Institute and Festival at Mannes College is underway, and not a moment too soon for classical piano aficionados. It would be a significant addition to New York cultural life at any time of the year, but as it always takes place during the last two weeks of July, when concert activity in New York slows down, it is particularly welcome. It features reasonably priced recitals by excellent pianists at all different stages in their careers, lectures, a competition and special events. Among these are a program dedicated to the memory of Earl Wild, who died earlier this year, and a day of tribute to noted pianist and pedagogue Leonard Shure (1910-1995) whose centenary is being celebrated this year.

The opening night recital is traditionally given by Festival Founder Jerome Rose. There are several composers with whom his name is particularly associated, among them Liszt, Beethoven and Schubert. This evening was devoted to Schubert, primarily to two of the great last three sonatas written at the end of the composer's much too short life.

Mr. Rose had barely begun the beautiful G Flat Impromptu, which seemed like an invocation, when he, and the audience were plagued with cellphone noises caused by people either too selfish, or incompetent to turn their electronics off before the program started, despite recording engineer Joe Patrych's reminder. Mr. Rose stopped playing, folded his arms and stared at the audience before starting over and playing perhaps even better. Other unmusical distractions of the evening included someone coughing right behind me during much of the first movement of the first sonata. It did not, unfortunately, occur to this person to leave the room.

Despite these annoyances, a full house was able to enjoy an evening of powerful and passionate playing by Mr. Rose, who was in very fine form.

His teachers included Adolph Baller, Mr. Shure (who was a Schnabel student) and Rudolph Serkin, so he is heir to several pianistic traditions. Serkin and Schnabel, though very different in many ways, were both proponents of a fearless approach to piano playing. Serkin, I am told, would not allow changes and substitutions to make things easier (such as using both hands at the beginning of the Hammerklavier Sonata) and Schnabel disparaged what he called "emergency rallentandos!" Similarly, Mr. Rose does nothing to make his life easier if it will lessen the musical effect. Fast movements are played fast, and highpoints are played full-strength, yet always with a fine, round tone.

The C minor Sonata is the least played of the last three sonatas. Mr. Rose's performance emphasized its drama and intensity, even in the Menuet, which is sometimes seen as more light-hearted. (Also, in both sonatas, he did the repeat of the first movement exposition, which is often left out in these long works.) Particularly effective were the threatening chromatic runs just before the recapitulation in the first movement, and the sforzando outbursts in the second. The tarantella-like last movement was also very exciting. Fast, treacherous and featuring some of Schubert's most remarkable modulations (at one point coming to rest in B Flat major, pausing for two measures of silence, then starting a magical new section in B major) it takes a certain amount of courage as well as control to bring it off well, and Mr. Rose certainly succeeded.

The A major Sonata is such a wonderful piece of music I can't get over it! Though, like the other sonata, it has drama and brilliance, it also has wonderful areas of lyricism and sublime beauty. In the first movement, Mr. Rose's playing of the last statement of the main theme before the concluding arpeggios was gorgeous, as was his handling of the short C Sharp major section leading into the recapitulation of the F Sharp minor theme in the second movement. The Scherzo movement was played with great charm, and the last movement with particular warmth.

Mr. Rose played one short, but lovely encore, the second movement of Schumann's Davidsbündlertänze, in memory of Leonard Shure, with whom he studied that work.

It was a very fine evening of music-making on a high level.

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