Sweet, Sweet Music From The Rogés
Notes from Middle England
April 24, 2015
My granddaughter was four years old when she first saw a tandem. She was astounded, but also troubled.
“How does the one on the back steer?” she asked.
We sadly revealed that the one at the back has no choice about direction. She declared that she would never ever get on a tandem.
I wonder if it’s a bit like that, being the second seat in a piano duo.
Shortly before husband-and-wife team Pascal and Ami Rogé came on stage, my wife and I were speculating on who would get the big piano stool and who the small one. She believed that Ami would need the big one so she could reach the piano; I felt sure the lead pianist, Pascal, would get it.
I was right. But later on, they swapped seats for the first of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances (though they swopped back again for the second.)
Ami Rogé made it plain she was happy to be number two, and she pedalled for both of them (the piano, not the tandem). What you get with this couple isn’t just excellent pianism, but an ongoing on-stage love story.
The concert opened with Listen with Mother – well, the Dolly suite by Fauré from which the signature tune comes. Fauré was in the habit of writing a tune to celebrate moments in the life of Hélène Bardac, the daughter of his mistress Emma. Emma was apparently also involved with Debussy, who had a daughter Chou-Chou with her (and she inspired his Children’s Corner). Hélène lived until 1985, but Chou-Chou died in 1919 at the age of 13. The picture is of Hélène at 22 with the eight-year-old Chou-Chou. But I digress, though in a fascinating way, I hope. It’s a wonderful piece, though very much of its time, with flashes of Parisian music hall. Pascal Rogé sees himself as an ambassador of French music, and this is plainly a calling card.
Next, Pascal Rogé appeared alone to play six of the best-known of Debussy’s Preludes. Debussy interpretation was always what Rogé was known for, and the placing of notes and precise pedalling was superb.
La Cathédrale Engloutie – the drowned cathedral – has a personal resonance. My wife and I once visited a part of France where they had emptied a massive reservoir, and an entire village with church had re-appeared from the water. I remember we ate a goat’s cheese pizza.
Schubert’s four-hand Fantasia, one of his greatest works, closed the first half; it contains another on my list of World’s Greatest Tunes, so I loved it.
The Mozart four-hand sonata got a stylish and poised performance, but the icing on the cake was four wonderful Dvorak Slavonic Dances, 1,5,2 and 8. All the yearning of the Slav soul was there, but they also negotiated the twists and turns of the furiants with such aplomb that the audience broke out into delighted spontaneous applause.
This was a fitting end to this latest series of Harding Trust Piano Recitals at the Forum Theatre, a concert which was truly easy listening – not because of some kind of dumbed-down music, but because of complex music which was truly melodic and played with affection.
It’s been a season which has ranged from seasoned English and American masters – Martin Roscoe and Garrick Ohlsson – to young rising stars like Alexandra Dariescu. I see that next season includes both the 2014 winner of BBC young musician of the year and the man who won the keyboard final in 2004 – Benjamin Grosvenor. Director Mike Lloyd is to be congratulated on getting these people.
As an encore, Pascal and Ami Rogé played the Féria from Ravel’s Rapsodie Espagnole. Ravel’s marking is “assez animé” – pretty animated – and they certainly obeyed his instructions. Pascal Rogé said they loved the music because it was Spanish in nature, and Spain was where he met Ami.
Throughout the evening, the couple only stopped holding hands when they had to put them on the piano. It was very sweet.