BACH Goldberg Variations. 6 Partitas. The Musical Offering: 2 Ricercars. Toccata in f# • Andrew Rangell (pn) • STEINWAY & SONS 30024 (3 CDs: 211:35)
Less than a generation ago, it seemed as if playing Bach on a modern piano would become a sort of quaint anachronism, washed away by the ascendency of the period instrument movement. Of course, there was the huge legacy of Glenn Gould, who received aRead more pass because he was a singular artistic phenomenon, and because, even though he used the “wrong” instrument, he was a critical player in the Bach revival of the second half of the 20th century. Today, there are more recordings of Bach on the piano than ever. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that Andrew Rangell’s widely acclaimed series of recordings for the now defunct Dorian label in the 1990s was a powerful impetus towards the current situation. His recording of the Goldberg Variations, along with The Musical Offering ricercars and the Toccata in F# Minor, all played on a modern piano, came across as anti-Gould, with an emphasis on the magnificent lyricism of the music, presented with generally relaxed tempos.
Since Rangell’s recording of the Goldberg Variations over two decades ago, an almost unbelievable flood of recordings on the piano of this beloved music has been released, and more is still coming. And yet Rangell’s version holds up very well, sounding smart and distinctive, and unabashedly sensual. The Dorian recordings, made in the acoustically lovely Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, are all included on this very rewarding three-CD set, an ArkivMusic production for Steinway. There is also a 2000 recording of the Six Partitas, made in Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. A 20-year stretch in an artist’s career can have any number of affects. There may be a deepening in some cases, but Rangell sounds essentially like the same interpreter. If anything, there seems to be a bit more reticence in the newer recording, perhaps reflecting a loss of some youthful exuberance. What remains consistent is the pianist’s gently probing intellect and his abiding respect for the sheer beauty of the music.
I can’t imagine anyone who loves this music not thoroughly enjoying this set, but of course the range of choices for the consumer is immense. I would not even attempt any kind of ranking among modern piano recordings of Bach, especially in the case of the Goldbergs, but I do have a special affection for Vladimir Feltsman’s magical recent recording of the Partitas.
FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
"Highly present, transparent recordings in the first place, these solo piano works are timeless, high watermarks for the genre. On a purely musical basis, these recordings are must hearing for any fan of music music that want to soak in the joy of masterful playing at it’s best."
-- Midwest Record Entertainment[11/2013]
R E V I E W S of original releases:
"...the strands of counterpoint sing with extraordinary transparency; you will hear relationships never apparent before." -- NEW YORK TIMES
"For the most part, this is a much saner view than Gould's, and Rangell's deep affection for the music projects itself strongly. He certainly finds more joy and bounce in the score than the austere Schiff, and overall, this may be the best choice for the Goldbergs on piano...fanciers of Bach on the piano will surely enjoy this generous offering."
-- Peter Burwasser, FANFARE
"I have many versions of this sublime work and love several, very different, renditions. Glenn Gould’s is my favorite for architecture, Rosalyn Tureck perhaps for warmth and classic intimacy. But Rangell has opened up whole dimensions in these works. Listen especially for a hint of rubato near the beginning of first partita, the confident mastery of the sublime 6th partita. Sublime is an overused word, but Rangell’s performance is nothing if not sublime."
Essential & ExcellentJuly 4, 2016By bess holloway (Boulder, CO)See All My Reviews"A person must have Bach in his/her library. There are many recordings to choose from, so I was grateful to receive this set as a bonus for subscribing to LISTEN Magazine. Having owned it for several years, I can honestly recommend it to others who might purchase it. The price is a fair one, too."Report Abuse
music to purify the mindMarch 5, 2014By Carol Caldwell-Edmonds (Belvidere Center, VT)See All My Reviews"received this when I subscribed to "Listen"; absolutely love this collection; this quickly became my "music to listen to to clear the mind;" Andrew Rangell invites repeated listens with interpretations that make Bach's music a vehicle to bring order to chaos"Report Abuse
The perfect gift!January 17, 2014By Richard C. (Lancaster, PA)See All My Reviews"This CD set was sent as a gift to friends and they LOVED it! On Christmas Day they just sat around and played the discs all day long. I think they liked it!"Report Abuse