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Fryderyk CHOPIN (1809-1847)
Ballade No.1 in G minor Op.23 (1831-5) [9.11]
Ballade No.2 in F major Op.38 (1836-9) [7.30]
Ballade No.3 in A major Op.47 (1840-41) [7.17]
Ballade No.4 in F minor Op.52 (1842) [11.00]
Fantasie Op.49 in F minor (1840-41) [11.39]
Jerome Rose (piano)
No Recording details

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These arenít new recordings. They were remastered in 2002 and form part of a series of discs from the distinguished and formidable American pianist Jerome Rose. Monarch Classics has already released examples, amongst other things, of his Beethoven, Schumann and Liszt, all recently recorded - so their roster is a strong one.

Rose is fully equipped, as one would expect, to deal with the technical exigencies of this repertoire. He has a big technique and considerable sensitivity, the former generally subsumed to the latter, and that means that these traversals have considerable authority. They also have great colour and life; these are constantly invigorating and adrenalin-packed readings that can sometimes highlight the big gesture somewhat too blatantly. In this regard, and despite the remastering, he has to contend with a difficult acoustic and recording set-up. The piano sounds clangy and the studio sounds somewhat airless; the result is that the piano sound is too up front, which renders some runs in the G minor, for instance, unclear. This is a work he plays with great frisson and energy, with considerable colouristic imagination, but which is arguably guilty of some rushed passages in approaching structural peaks.

In the A major there is something of a strident, hectoring quality to the playing which might not suit all tastes. This is partly a consequence of the recording and that applies even more in the case of the F minor. The hard-hitting quality one notices elsewhere, which is not to deny the considerable oases of poetic playing he cultivates, can move perilously close to an unfeeling externalised sense. One feels here as elsewhere that climaxes are rushed, that he doesnít time them with optimum expressive and emotive effectiveness.

The Fantasie is very effective. He avoids a great deal of pedal and makes much of the contrastive material. Heís notably successful in creating and sustaining atmosphere though once more some will find that the keen excitement he generates comes at the cost of structural integrity and properly preparing for the climax. Given these very personalised approaches and given the problems inherent in the recording this is one very much for Roseís admirers.

Jonathan Woolf

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