Pascal Rogé was born into a family of musicians and his mother, an organist, gave him his first lessons in music. At the age of eight Rogé played Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major for Marguerite Long and at eleven he entered the Paris Conservatoire where he studied with Lucette Descaves and made his public debut with an orchestra. At fifteen Rogé won a premier prix for piano and chamber music and then continued his studies with Julius Katchen for three years. From Katchen he learnt the German classics. Katchen wrote of Rogé, ‘Pascal Rogé is a born, natural virtuoso whose technical limitations I have yet to discover…Rogé has that rare “presence” and charm which immediately captivates the public, his playing has a big romantic sweep and yet tremendous rhythmic vitality, he produces beautiful sounds and he has that kind of poetry peculiar to the French at their most sensitive.’
At sixteen Rogé took part in the George Enescu Competition in Bucharest and a year later made his debut at the Salle Gaveau in Paris and the Wigmore Hall in London. In London he played Brahms’s Variations and Fugue on a theme of Handel Op. 24 and sonatas by Liszt and Dutilleux. A critic in The Daily Telegraph wrote of ‘…the emergence of a new virtuoso at Wigmore Hall: Pascal Rogé, who at the age of seventeen already has the technical assurance of a Horowitz’. When he returned to London the following year Max Harrison in The Times wrote that Rogé ‘…is among the major pianistic talents of his generation…it is his range of colour, and the unfailing clarity of every detail, at no matter what tempo, that astonish.’ About the programme of Schumann’s Carnaval Op. 9, Chopin ballades and Debussy préludes, Harrison ended his review, ‘Has anyone ever played Voiles or Le vent dans la plaine better than this?’
From this auspicious beginning Rogé has continued a career touring and performing throughout the world. He has performed with all the major London orchestras, the Montreal Symphony, the Toronto Symphony, the Concertgebouw, Leipzig Gewandhaus and many of the French orchestras. Since making his United States debut, Rogé has returned almost every year, often appearing with the orchestras of Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and St Louis. Rogé travels far and wide and frequently plays in South America and Mexico and recently made a three-month recital and chamber tour of New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. During the 1999–2000 season Rogé appeared with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra, and in 2001 toured Australia and returned to tour Japan for the twentieth time.
Rogé is known for his performances of the French repertoire, particularly Poulenc, Satie, Ravel, Debussy and Saint-Saëns. His playing combines Gallic elegance, charm and humour with sensitive colouring and exemplary technique. Rogé is well aware of his limitations and does not try to play every kind of music in public. In a 2003 interview he said, ‘For music like Poulenc and Ravel, I have a natural instinct—I was born with it. I don’t pretend to be universal. If I don’t feel myself being creative in a piece of music, I don’t play it. Why should there be one more Tchaikovsky concerto?’ Rogé is unusual in that he enjoys recording. ‘I love recording, because I’m not trying to reproduce a concert; I am trying to present an ideal interpretation. I can listen, and change, and edit, like a writer or a painter.’
Rogé was signed to Decca when he was seventeen. His first recording, made in December 1969, was an LP of Liszt, containing the Piano Sonata in B minor, Mazeppa, Vallée d’Obermann and Liebestraum No. 3. The Sonata certainly is impressive for an eighteen-year-old, and indicated the mature musician into which the pianist would develop. In the mid 1970s Rogé recorded the piano concertos by Bartók with the London Symphony Orchestra and Walter Weller and then turned his attention to French music. In 1974 he recorded the solo works of Ravel, and when these were reissued in the mid-1990s Bryce Morrison writing in The Gramophone found a certain lack of menace and cruelty in Gaspard de la nuit, but ended his review, ‘Overall, this is arguably the finest recording of Ravel’s piano works.’ Rogé’s playing on his disc of Fauré was described as ‘playing of refinement and distinction,’ and his 1979 recording of the complete piano concertos by Saint-Saëns is still held as one of the best modern sets of these works. Rogé’s recording of Debussy’s first book of préludes is particularly sensitive, as is all his playing of music by this composer. In 1982 Rogé recorded excellent accounts of Ravel’s two piano concertos with the Montreal Orchestra and Charles Dutoit. Although his name has become inevitably linked with the French repertoire, in 1980 Rogé recorded another disc of Liszt, the second book of the Années de pèlerinage. Other highlights of the Rogé discography include his recordings of Satie, on one of which he plays Sports et Divertissements, and his recordings of Poulenc. In chamber music, Rogé has recorded Brahms, Franck and Fauré with violinist Pierre Amoyal, and for Erato recorded the Piano Trio Op. 50 by Tchaikovsky with Amoyal and Frédéric Lodéon in 1982. Other fine chamber music recordings include Chausson’s Concert in D Op. 21 and Fauré’s quintets and quartets with the Quatuor Ysaÿe. It would appear that Rogé’s contract with Decca finally expired, and in May 2005 a disc of Rogé playing Debussy’s préludes was issued by Onyx.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — Jonathan Summers (A–Z of Pianists, Naxos 8.558107–10).