A continuation of Andrew Rangell’s long and loving exploration of Bach.
A splendid follow up to A Bouquet of Beethoven
On February 7, 2020, Steinway & Sons releases A Bouquet of Bach (STNS 30126) from pianist Andrew Rangell, an album comprised of works that span the career of Johann Sebastian Bach. Kicking off the album is Aria variata, BWV 989, an early and colorful set of 10 short variations that attest to Bach’s earliest study of Italian stylistic models. The theme is harmonically rich, the variations brilliantly decorative. Aria variata stands with the late and monumental Goldberg Variations to form the bookends of Bach’s only efforts in keyboard variations.
Also included on the album are Jesu Mein Freude, BWV 753 and Little Prelude in D minor, BWV 926, two short contrasting creations from “Clavierbuchlein” for Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. Jesu Mein Freude, a fragment from an organ chorale-prelude, is a strangely moving piece in three-part polyphony in which the melody is presented in nine successive closely-related phrases. The Little Prelude in D minor is an unpredictable and hemiola-filled romp that breaks surprisingly into sixteenth notes near the end, before returning, just as abruptly to eighth notes in its concluding measures.
Three Egon Petri transcriptions follow, cloaked in warm, full sonorities that are a hallmark of the nineteenth century. Of the three pieces, Sheep May Safely Graze (a soprano aria from Cantata BWV 208) is certainly the best known, but I Step Before Thy Throne (“Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit”) possesses an austere beauty made even more moving by a special circumstance in its creation. C.P.E. Bach attested that his father, blind and near death, turned his attention upon this particular work, dictating what were probably some final emendations in his last hours.
Inventions and Sinfonias, BWV 772-801 are 30 small but significant specimens of 2 and 3‑part polyphony, each unfolding from a single “idea” developed to its conclusion. These 2 ordered collections are notable for the fact that they were seen by Bach as an early comprehensive preparation for the preludes and fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier. What shines through these 30 pieces is the sheer poetic content and character of each small adventure.
“The strands of counterpoint sing with extraordinary transparency; you will hear relationships never apparent before.”
New York Times
I find Rangell's performance of the transcriptions and chorale prelude particularly enchanting. The latter is a great example of an ornamented chorale prelude with a very simple accompaniment and should be played more often. 'Sheep May Safely Graze' is a very effective transcription that's been played many times—Rangell's performance capitalizes on the work's sweetness and abundant lyricism. His beautiful tone is also particularly welcome for these pieces.”
American Record Guide
“[Rangell's] performances themselves constitute an assertion that playing Bach keyboard music on piano, and utilizing the modern instrument’s capabilities in ways that Bach never intended, can be satisfying in ways that are different from those offered by the original instrumentation... Rangell’s fine performances are a bit of an anomaly now that we do know so much more about what Bach’s music was supposed to sound like. But they certainly have pleasures of their own, and audiences that especially enjoy the sound and emotive capabilities of the modern piano will find them highly satisfying.”
“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.”
A Bouquet Of Bach / Andrew Rangell • STNS 30126
Release Date: 02/07/2020
Recorded December 20-21, 2018 at the Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport, Massachusetts
Producer: Andrew Rangell
Recording Engineer: Tom Stephenson
Editing/Mastering: Brad Michel
Piano Technician: Christine Lovgren
Piano: Steinway Model D #586518 (New York)
Executive Producer: Jon Feidner
Art Direction: Jackie Fugere
Design: Cover to Cover Design, Anilda Carrasquillo
Production Assistant: Renée Oakford
Cover Painting (Detail): Odilon Redon
Photo of Andrew Rangell: David Shriver
About the Artist
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, ranging from the music of Sweelinck, Farnaby, and Gibbons to that of Janacek, Enescu, Nielsen, Bartok, Valen, Christian Wolff, and many others. The present recording, newly documenting Mr. Rangell’s exploration of Bach’s keyboard music, can be added to a long list of distinctive performances, including The Goldberg Variations, French Suites, Partitas, Well-Tempered-Clavier, Book 1, The Art of Fugue, and many shorter works.
Andrew Rangell made his New York debut as winner of the Malraux Award of the Concert Artists’ Guild, and has since performed and lectured throughout the United States, and in Europe and Israel. He has also taught on the faculties of Dartmouth, Middlebury, and Tufts University. In the 1980s, already recognized as a distinctive recitalist and collaborative artist, Mr. Rangell gained national attention – and the award of an Avery Fisher Career Grant – for his vivid traversals of the complete Beethoven sonata-cycle in New York, Boston, Cleveland, Rochester, Denver, and other U.S. Cities. A hand injury sustained in 1991 forced Mr. Rangell to gradually alter the trajectory of his career, and eventually to place his highest priority on recording. His recent previous Steinway & Sons release, Bach 4 Kids, combines a short Bach recital with a DVD video of Rangell’s own children’s book, Peter Pajamas. (Art and narration by Andy, soundtrack by Bach.)
About Steinway & Sons label
The STEINWAY & SONS music label produces exceptional albums of solo piano music across all genres. The label — a division of STEINWAY & SONS, maker of the world’s finest pianos — is a perfect vessel for producing the finest quality recordings by some of the most talented pianists in the world.