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Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Sonata in B minor (1853) [29.30]
Don Juan Fantasy (1841) [17.51]
Mephisto Waltz (1860) [10.17]
Jerome Rose (piano)
Recorded at CUNY Graduate Centre, New York, June 2004
MEDICI CLASSICS M30092 [57.53]

 

American pianist Jerome Rose has a sizeable body of recordings to his credit on Medici and Monarch Classics, some of which derive from older sessions but some, like this one, recently recorded. He majors, on disc at least, in the Romantics and the latest of his recordings to come my way is this triptych of Lisztian fireworks – just under an hour’s worth of powerhouse virtuosity.

The fact that the ground has been trod many times before doesn’t lessen the attempt. And Rose is – no mistake – a pianist of fearsome accomplishment and absorption. His armoury is finely stocked and whilst not imperious it bears all the slings and arrows of Lisztian assault with a certain degree of sanguinity, if not necessarily serenity. That said, there were moments in the Sonata, for example, when the tension is not ratcheted quite tightly enough, moments when (arguably) he uses a touch too much pedal. There are times too when a sense of anticipation is very slightly missing and when the climaxes don’t register with the weight they ideally might. Maybe, at points, his tone isn’t as "rich" as others – though this may well be a result of the recording, which is unsympathetically resonant and can spread too much. Against all the above I should also add that much here is superbly good, from the phrasing, to the sense of struggle, and the sheer digital accomplishment of the thing.

To follow the sonata with the Don Juan Fantasy is to risk a daemonic, Simon Barere-like curve of music-making. And yet here Rose goes. So let’s chance a comparison with that arch-Lisztian Barere whose last, 1951 recording of Don Juan is now available on Cembal d’amour. Compared with the leonine intensity of Barere or the only-slightly-less dynamism of Grigory Ginzburg (live 1957) Rose takes a rather more equable line. He’s rather slower than either of these titans and doesn’t enact their peremptory insistence or tonal gradations. Similarly both Barere and Ginzburg build tension through not just speed increase but through accenting and tonal shading and colouration. If Rose is not their equal in these matters it is hardly surprising. Again his slightly "cathedral" acoustic somewhat blunts the impact of the playing, something that applies also to the Mephisto Waltz that closes the disc. Here Rose is on suitably engaged form, fiery and dramatic, and articulate.

It’s a good way to end this recital, one that is marked by powerful understanding and decisive panache. Rose’s admirers will find it rewarding.

Jonathan Woolf



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