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Is That You, Monsieur Chopin?

Nocturnes, valses, mazurkas and etudes - French pianist Pascal Rogè played "Chopin and French Impressionism" at the Philamlife Auditorium in Manila (18.10.). On Bösendorfer.

Music reviewer Elizabeth Lolarga was among the guests. Here is her report of an outstanding evening (thank you for the  print-permit):

"Is That You, Monsieur Chopin?

This genius of his age once exhorted, "Put all your soul into it, play the way you feel!" But I never encountered a more cerebral classical pianist than the Frenchman Pascal Rogé.

His program of "Chopin and French Impressionism" at the Philamlife Auditorium last night was performed the way a deeply knowledgeable curator would guide you through a history of period music by Fauré, Poulenc, Ravel and yes, the man whose bicentennial is being celebrated this year, the Polish musician who conquered France and the rest of Europe, who prematurely died of tuberculosis and whose heart is buried in his homeland and in all who continue to cherish his music. Perhaps Rogé has nothing more to prove. He wasn't there to dazzle or impress us with fiery techniques; he is past that.

French pianist Pascal Rogè on Bösendorfer 225: "I like this 225 piano very much.  It is just the right size for the hall."

French pianist Pascal Rogè on Bösendorfer 225: "I like this 225 piano very much. It is just the right size for the hall."

Exquisite treasures

When this ruggedly handsome performer strode onstage, he acquired the demeanor of a professor as he put on his glasses and played non-stop for at least an hour the nocturnes, valses, mazurkas and etudes of the composers earlier cited. No pause at all to acknowledge appreciative applause although there were one or two audience members who couldn't contain themselves. 

We had to refrain from clapping after each piece as his interpretation seemed to be meant as one whole seamless piece where he tried to show us the differences and the likenesses of the composers of that period. All that was lacking was the voice-over of a lecture. And always in the first and second parts of his program, Rogé closed with a Chopin piece as though to put the exclamation point to an entire periodic sentence running into several pages. In the second set of pieces, he alternated Debussy and Chopin till it was hard to tell them apart until you catch a familiar passage. 

Nonetheless, Chopin's agony and ecstasy were evoked as were the suggestions of water Debussy unfailingly makes (to me, his is water music: waves licking shore, veils of waterfall, rain splattering on pavement and stones). Retired music reviewer Anna Leah Sarabia, who still frequents concert halls, said in recognizing Chopin's genius and his embodying the spirit of his age, "He had the capacity to create monumental structures out of so much passion and tension. From them emerge exquisite treasures." 

Rogé gave in to the two standing ovations the audience of a few hundred gave him with the piece (our personal favorite and the one I wished aloud he'd play) "Gymnopedie" by Erik Satie. This composer, dismissed in his time as clumsy and repetitive, had no qualms of calling his pieces furniture music, something best played as background to other activities. Well, it is the music I will specify in my living will as the one to be repetitively played till I breathe my last. 

"He means every note that comes out of his fingers." (Producer Ray Sison about Pascal Rogè).

"He means every note that comes out of his fingers." (Producer Ray Sison about Pascal Rogè).

To Rogé we owe gratitude for playing against what producer Ray Sison described as "all odds of the storm landing in Manila. He will brave it and so will hundreds of us! I heard him this weekend in Hong Kong, and he means every note that comes out of his fingers." Our next fervent wish is to hear Rogé again, this time playing four hands with his life partner Ami."

(rulö)
(Photocredit: Ben Endriga)