WORKS: Davidsbündlertänze; Nocturne in B, Op. 62/1; Nocturne in D flat, Op. 27/2; My Joys (arr. Liszt); Liszt: Reminiscences of Don Juan; Die Loreley
PERFORMER: Charles Rosen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 67154-2 DDD
Charles Rosen’s recent book The Romantic Generation includes a CD inside the back cover, about a quarter of which duplicates the programme on this disc – it includes Chopin’s Nocturne in D flat and Liszt’s Reminiscences and arrangement of Chopin’s My Joys. Rosen is one of the really great writers on music – a brilliant, searching mind with a good literary style. Oddly enough, his programme notes for this disc are perfunctory, and carry unsupported assertions which assume the reader is a moron.
The playing can be assessed on two levels. In a recent interview, Rosen pooh-poohed the idea that pianists could have such a thing as an individual touch. He hardly has one himself. Though the recording here is ideal, the actual sound Rosen makes is shallow, cold and as close to impersonal as you can get. He might as well have played an electric keyboard. Compare Rosen’s Reminiscences with Shura Cherkassky’s, or his Davidsbündlertänze with Cortot’s, or, if you want an up-to-date version, Andreas Haefliger’s.
And yet Rosen’s interpretation of the Davidsbündlertänze is beyond criticism and as intellectually satisfying as any I can recall. In the sixth piece his technique comes under strain, and No. 12 has too little dynamic contrast. But there are few further misgivings, and in No. 14, Rosen almost conjures real poetry.
The rest of the disc is more like a demonstration than a real performance, because it’s so cerebral and emotionally uncommitted. I shall keep it for academic reference – just to show how questions might be answered – but I shall not listen to it for pleasure. Adrian Jack