Notes and Editorial Reviews
"Andrew Rangell, an idiosyncratic pianist who has offered distinctive recordings of Bach and Beethoven, turns to Haydn for his latest disc. Mr. Rangell offers probing and unpredictable renditions of 4 of Haydn's 60 or so keyboard sonatas, beginning with No. 56 (Hob. XVI:42) in D. He plays with imaginative flair in the sunny outer movements of the Sonata No. 50 (Hob. XVI:37) in D and with introspection in its solemn Largo. The disc also includes deeply expressive performances of the Sonata No. 32 (Hob. XVI:44) in G minor and the Sonata No. 33 (Hob. XVI:20) in C minor."
-- Vivien Schweitzer, New York Times [4/4/2010]
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Piano Sonatas: No. 56 in D,
No. 50 in D,
No. 32 in g,
No. 33 in c,
Andrew Rangell (pn)
BRIDGE 9313 (68:17)
There is a right way and a wrong way to play Haydn, but it has little to do with period instruments or historical practices, and not all that much to do with faithfulness to the score. If a performance is moving, fascinating, enlightening, exciting, or just plain fun, it is right. If it is dull, it is wrong. This position statement is offered before approaching recordings by Andrew Rangell, whose performances delight some critics and annoy others—I’m on the aisle of delight. He exercises his imagination on discs as much or more than other pianists do in concert. That thought comes from hearing Andreas Staier play an all-Haydn fortepiano recital at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall last night: Staier was far more inventive and free in concert than on his recordings, pulling and pushing tempos and even adding passages of his own to extend Haydn’s two-or-three-chord transitional passages. In the Vivace assai finale of Hob. XVI:42, Haydn has such a transition—a three-note catching-of-breath—at measure 62. Rangell improvises a few extra chords (perhaps three measures’ worth) right after it; then, during the long repeat (virtually the whole movement), he adds a slightly longer passage, this time prior to Haydn’s notes. There is no sense of a cadenza—nothing flashy, just a relaxation plus variation the second time around, and a feeling of freedom. It is subtly integrated into Haydn’s music; I caught the spirit but couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on until I opened the score. In addition, Rangell often spreads a chord (ever so slightly—not a true arpeggio) differently during a repeat. He often brings out notes or even phrases which are normally secondary (not hidden, which is nigh impossible in Haydn’s lucid scores); for example, the bass line in measures 69–74 of the C-Minor Sonata’s finale—to startling effect.
But, just as such explanations take more time to read than the playing, they also may exaggerate the effect. The end result seems eminently natural most of the time, a desirable, even necessary aspect of interpretation. I find no fault with it, but purists are warned. I am occasionally startled by a momentary hesitation, but usually not enough to become annoyed. The opening Allegro con brio of Hob. XVI:37 is a bit punchy for me, and yet a bit short on brio; you can’t win them all. Rangell generally chooses rather slow tempos, which allow him to extract more juice from Haydn’s sonatas than we are accustomed to; with all repeats taken, his performance of the C-Minor Sonata runs over 28 minutes. This great work has to be the highlight of this disc, and it is; I have seldom experienced its depths, and even its intensity, as in this performance. Rangell’s Hamburg Steinway D is brilliantly reproduced. He writes absorbing program notes as well, saying of the C-Minor Sonata, “This is writing of exquisite daring.” The same might be said of his playing.
FANFARE: James H. North
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