Ronaldo Rolim, piano

July 14, 2021

Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts

David Schwan, host


Francis Poulenc – Nocturne No. 1 in C Major (3′)

Claude Debussy – Ballade, L. 70 (7′)

Gabriel Fauré – Impromptu No. 2 in F minor, Op. 31 (3′)

Maurice Ravel – Le Tombeau de Couperin (24′)

I. Prélude

II. Fugue

III. Forlane

IV. Rigaudon

V. Menuet

VI. Toccata

With “a special ability to present touching interpretations” (El Norte), Brazilian pianist Ronaldo Rolim is a prominent figure among the newest generation of outstanding musicians. Acclaimed for his “consummate elegance” (New York Concert Review) and “mastery of phrasing, agogic accents, and dynamics” (Oberbaselbieter Zeitung), he has performed extensively over four continents, in such venues such as Carnegie Hall, Zurich’s Tonhalle, London’s Wigmore Hall, the Great Hall of the Liszt Academy in Budapest, and Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts. He is a winner of Astral’s 2017 National Auditions. He has also captured top prizes at numerous international competitions, including the James Mottram, Bösendorfer, San Marino, Lyon, and Teresa Carreño, as well as the Concours Géza Anda in Zurich. In 2019, Mr. Rolim released his latest album on Odradek Records, Szymanowski – The Wartime Triptychs, devoted to the programmatic works the Polish composer wrote during World War I. Diapason magazine considers Mr. Rolim “an ideal guide to [Szymanowski’s] magic world”, whereas Classica magazine hails his “clear but thunderous pianism”. The topic was extensively discussed in Mr. Rolim’s doctoral thesis, completed in 2016 at Yale University. 

Recent guest soloist performances include Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Brahms’ Concerto No. 1 with the Symphony Orchestra of the St. Petersburg State Academic Capella, both the Grieg and Schumann concerti at the Septembre Musical Festival in Montreux, Switzerland, and Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety with the Minas Gerais Philharmonic. Mr. Rolim has also performed with the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, Musikkollegium Winterthur, Concerto Budapest, Phoenix Symphony, and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, to name a few, as well as many of Brazil’s foremost ensembles. A frequent presence at international music festivals, he has been featured in solo recitals and chamber music performances at Ravinia, Rio Folle Journée, Accademia Musicale Chigiana, Musikdorf Ernen, Académie Musicale de Villecroze, and the Kingston Chamber Music Festival. His performances have been featured in radio broadcasts in Brazil (Radios MEC and Cultura), the U.S. (WQXR New York, WBJC Baltimore and WFMT Chicago), and Europe (Radios SWR 2, BBC 3, Rai 3, and France Musique). 

A passionate advocate of chamber music, Mr. Rolim is the founding member of Trio Appassionata, formed in 2007 with violinist Lydia Chernicoff and cellist Andrea Casarrubios. Mr. Rolim greatly enjoys working with diverse chamber musicians, and has performed with the Aizuri, Jasper, Guimarães and São Paulo string quartets, and members of Ensemble Connect, the Baltimore Symphony, the Brazilian Symphony, and Bronx Arts Ensemble. 

Ronaldo Rolim began musical studies with his mother, Miriam Corrêa, and gave his first public performance at the age of four. He was admitted to the Magda Tagliaferro School in São Paulo as a student of Zilda Candida dos Santos and Armando Fava Filho. After winning the Nelson Freire and the Magda Tagliaferro national piano competitions at the age of 18, he moved to the U.S., where he studied with Flavio Varani at Oakland University (Michigan), Benjamin Pasternack at the Peabody Conservatory, and Boris Berman at the Yale School of Music.


This program, performed on Bastille Day, features music by four of France’s most outstanding composers. The first three pieces are a testament of how much French piano music is indebted to Chopin, whose life was primarily spent in Paris. The final work, a six-movement suite in a neo-Baroque idiom, is a tribute to the great lineage of French harpsichordists from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

In his output, Chopin notoriously cultivated genres that weren’t given enough prominence by his predecessors. For instance, he emancipated the Prelude from the Fugue, and transformed the Étude from a mere exercise into a piece of transcendental artistic demands. Likewise, he took genres like Nocturne, Ballade, and Impromptu to new heights. Poulenc’s collection of Nocturnes (1929-39) uses Chopin’s idea of nocturnal simplicity and melancholy as a departure point, and adds a typical twentieth-century matter-of-factness to the mix. Debussy’s Ballade (1890), an early work by the first master of Modern music, makes use of a Chopinesque structure to experiment with tone color, in a harmonic language that, despite already showing a distinct personal voice, partly resembles Fauré’s. Having written a Ballade and some Nocturnes himself, Fauré wasn’t afraid of learning from the Chopin textbook. His Impromptu No.2 (1883) is a perfect demonstration of how the so-called jeu perlé, which characterized much of Chopin’s music and massively influenced French piano music, mingles with the quirky harmonies and melodic twists commonly associated with this composer.

At once a memorial to the greatness of Baroque French music and the victims of World War I, Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin (1914-17) uses the glories of the past to convey a much-needed patriotic statement in a moment of extreme grief. With each of its six movements dedicated to a friend the composer lost on the battlefield, the piece’s elegiac tone is unmistakable. Yet, its overall sound world favors light over darkness, in a continuous quest for loftiness precisely when the world experienced anything but. The textural transparency of the Prélude gives way to a bleak Fugue whose contortioned-yet-strict counterpoint is mind-boggling. The nostalgic Forlane, one of the long-forgotten dances Ravel rescued for this suite, has an irresistible lilt, whereas the Rigaudon provides a delightful relief, despite a melancholic trio section. The Menuet, a dance Ravel always cherished, is the emotional core of the suite, featuring the work’s most memorable melodic material and a quasi-Schubertian major-mode sadness. The concluding Toccata, with its typical French hand-crossings (when hands continuously stumble upon each other) and motoric quality, is an homage not only to Couperin but also Saint-Saëns, another towering figure in French music. Glenn Watkins argues that the Toccata’s steely tone suggests the motion of a fighter plane. Airborne or not, it is a piece of utmost resilience, with an unshakable strive for survival. The coda, featuring the only perennial fortissimo in the entire suite, is a moment of catharsis and an anticipated claim of victory. For Ravel, even if France is not a winner, its cultural legacy is, and will endure nevertheless.


Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)

Nocturne No. 1 in C Major (1929) (3)

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

Impromptu No. 2 in F minor, Op. 31 (1883) (3′)

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Ballade, L. 70 (1890) (7′)

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Le Tombeau de Couperin (1917) (24′)

Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts are made possible through the generosity of the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council and the Union League Club of Chicago.
Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts are presented in partnership with the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and 98.7 WFMT

Don’t miss SooBeen Lee and Elliot Wuu

next week on the

Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts!

Wednesday July 21, 12:15pm

Pin It on Pinterest