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Bach: English Suites Bwv 806-811 / Andrew Rangell

Release Date: 01/03/2020
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30136
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach Performer:  Andrew Rangell Number of Discs: 2

Long recognized as among our most eloquent and insightful interpreters of the major keyboard works of Bach and Beethoven, pianist Andrew Rangell has drawn acclaim for a variety of recordings. This double album, newly documenting Mr. Rangell’s exploration of Bach’s keyboard music, can be added to a long list of distinctive performances.

R E V I E W S:

The iconoclastic pianist Andrew Rangell has recorded a good deal of Bach over the years, and his move to the piano-oriented Steinway & Sons label seems to have fired his imagination anew. The label supports him well here with engineering at the Shaolin Liu Performance Center in Massachusetts, capturing Rangell's all-important left-hand lines, detailed
Read more exploration of Bach's counterpoint, and hugely varied articulation. However, Rangell's style of Bach goes beyond all these factors, encompassing a deeply subjective approach to the material that has a greater variety of moods than one would think possible within the framework of the Baroque structure. It's not correct to say that he ignores the dance rhythms in the English Suites, for sometimes he observes them, but they are just one choice he makes among many different ones. In Bach, he might be called Glenn Gould without the humming, though his readings are even more varied than Gould's. Needless to say, those who think Bach's intentions are best revealed by straightforward playing on a harpsichord should steer clear, but most others are likely to find Rangell's work entirely absorbing.

-- AllMusic Guide

There are few musical pleasures greater than listening to Bach’s keyboard music played on the modern piano, and there are very few pianistic exponents of that repertoire more consistently impressive than Andrew Rangell. These two releases, [See A Bouquet of Bach / Andrew Rangell] issued one month apart, offer a scholarly take on one of the monuments of baroque keyboard composition and a more personal compilation of smaller works presented both in their original forms and in transcription. Rangell’s take on the six-part English Suites is simply magnificent; listen in particular to the delicacy and delight he shows in rendering the second menuet section of suite number 4; this is the kind of thing Rangell was born to do. The Bouquet of Bach collection is a bit quirkier, but every bit as lovely; the two- and three-part inventions nestle among brief selections from some of Bach’s notebooks, Egon Petri transcriptions of cantata arias, and other miscellany. Where some pianists temper what can sometimes feel like rhythmic relentlessness in Bach’s fugal compositions by means of rubato, Rangell does the same with dynamics–tenderly and tastefully executed, but with full artistic confidence. Highly recommended to all libraries.

-- CDHotlist

If the central tenet of music-making is the desirability of singing or playing in tune, accurately producing sound waves that vibrate at the correct frequency, then no one, it seems, did this better than Johann Sebastian Bach. Much of his keyboard music was written for the harpsichord – a near-ubiquitous instrument in his day – and it began to make a seamless transition to the piano no sooner the instrument was invented and to this day continues to be wonderfully interpreted.

One of the most recent is the unveiling of the English Suites with these gorgeous, free-spirited performances by Andrew Rangell. The suites are decidedly more grandiose than the French Suites and written entirely for pleasure rather than for instruction. The allemandes are rock steady throughout, the gigues extremely lively; the courante sections rapid while the sarabandes are utterly noble. The six suites are altogether easygoing and exquisitely flowery and are said to have borne a slight resemblance to the style of Couperin, with whom Bach is known to have corresponded.

The English Suites are not actually English, but rather more influenced by other European compositional elements, that seemingly – and fortuitously – held Bach’s attention. They begin with a prelude which is often, as in the Suite No.3 in G Minor BWV808, a large-scale concerto-like movement. Rangell brings matchless clarity to Bach’s multi-stranded music. This set of discs shows the pianist at his most enjoyable, astonishingly fleet-fingered and full of delightful argumentative intelligence.

-- Raul da Gama, The Whole Note
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