Pascal Roge grew up with music. His mother, grandmother and grandfather were professional musicians.
“I was surprised when I went to school that not all the kids played the piano,” Roge says.
Even those who did play the piano didn’t show the precociousness of young Roge. When still a child, he already had learned one of the works he will play with the Spokane Symphony tonight at the Opera House.
Roge will perform Maurice Ravel’s Concerto and Gabriel Faure’s Ballade on a program that also includes Joseph Schwantner’s “A Sudden Rainbow” and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2. Fabio Mechetti will conduct.
When he was 8, Roge knew Ravel’s brilliant and difficult Concerto in G well enough that his teacher, Lucette Descaves, took him to play it for her teacher, Marguerite Long, the doyenne of French pianists. Long had been the soloist when Ravel conducted its world premiere in 1932.
“I can’t remember how I played it, but I still remember that Madame Long first corrected some notes that are still printed wrongly in the score and told me some things about the phrasing in the second movement and how Ravel would not have wanted it to go too slowly,” Roge says.
“The one compliment I remember her giving me was saying that `you have the right sound and the right color for this concerto.’ It was natural, because I could never have worked it out at that age,” Roge recalls.
Roge, now 43, has performed the concerto many times, and his recording of it with Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony received both the Grand Prix du Disque and an Edison Award. “I wish I had kept count of the times I’ve played it; it must be more than 200 times. Still, every time I play it, I get the same excitement, the same joy and, I’ll have to admit, the same tears when I hear that English horn melody in the second movement.”
Roge began piano lessons with his mother when he was 3. “I never really thought about a career other than music,” Roge says. “Music was a natural thing for me; when I reached the age to think about it, it was already too late.”
He made his debut as an orchestral soloist when he was 11. The same year, Roge entered the Paris Conservatoire from which he was to graduate four years later with first prizes in piano and chamber music. After returning from a vacation with his family, Roge met the American pianist Julius Katchen, a musician Roge considers his greatest formative influence.
“I learned from him structure and interpretation and how to think about music, and especially the importance of getting away from the piano,” Roge says. “Katchen taught me how to look at a score - how to find the construction of a piece without being influenced by problems of piano technique which can sometimes blind you to the music itself.”
Roge’s international fame, beginning in 1968 with his solo debuts in Paris and London, has been based mainly on his critically acclaimed performances and his recordings of French piano music on the London-Decca label. But the influence of Katchen shows up in Roge’s success with the music of Brahms (Katchen’s specialty) and of such modern, non-French classics as the concertos of Bartok.
In addition to the Ravel concerto on tonight’s program, Roge will perform Faure’s Ballade, another speciality of Marguerite Long’s. “The piece is pure poetry. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to play it for her,” Roge says.
Verne Windham, music director for public radio station KPBX and former principal horn in the symphony, will discuss the evening’s music in a pre-concert talk beginning at 7 p.m.
MEMO: This is a sidebar that appeared with this story: The Spokane Symphony Orchestra with piano soloist Pascal Roge Location and time: Opera House, tonight, 8 Tickets: $25, $21, $16, $11, available at the symphony ticket office, 624-1200, and G&B;